Whitebook, M., Alvarenga, C., & Zheutlin, B. (2022). The Kindergarten Lessons We Never Learned. Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley.
- From 1867 to 1917, the Office of Education published the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Education. Kindergarten was mentioned first in the Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1870, which contained a section titled, “Kindergarten Culture” (pp. 354-359). From 1874 to 1888, kindergarten data reported by the federal government was based on surveys sent to individual kindergartens that included questions about the kindergarten’s location, the year it was established, whether it received any public dollars, the number of teachers, and the ages and number of pupils enrolled. Some known kindergartens failed to respond to the surveys or had closed, and some provided incomplete data. After the 1894 report, the data reported overall kindergarten statistics by state, rather than by the individual kindergarten.
- Laws in many states prevented the use of state education funds for children five and under or those younger than the age of formal school entry, see discussion of kindergarten laws in the Power of Kindergarten Laws, and also 1920-1945 Kindergarten Rolls Forward Then Back.
- From 1918 to 1958, the Bureau of Education restructured the annual reports into a series of biennial bulletins titled the Biennial Survey of Education in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). See the full list of annual reports and biennial surveys here.
- After the transition from annual reports to biennial surveys, the federal government began reporting kindergarten data for some years by town, village, or city population size. The definition of what was a city changed over time. For example, in 1930, a city was classified as a community with a population of 10,000 inhabitants or more.
- The International Kindergarten Union, founded in 1892 to organize the Kindergarten Exhibit at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, was renamed and reorganized as the Association of Childhood Education (ACE) in 1931. The organization initially focused on the professional preparation of kindergarten teachers and spread awareness about kindergarten developments around the country by organizing biannual conferences, working in coalition with other national organizations, and printing resources for teachers and advocates. ACE called attention to how different local conditions produced varied strategies and different degrees of progress, as demonstrated by their different regional histories. In 1946, ACE became the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) to better reflect its aim, promote its many members from other countries, and its support for equity in early childhood education abroad. Known today as the Childhood Education International, this organization continues its work fighting discrimination in early education in the United States and abroad.
- After 1958, data about kindergarten participation and the names of the reports changed again based on reorganizations of the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Kindergarten participation rates collected from household surveys reported in the Decennial Census and enrollment data based on reports from school systems were used to calculate participation rates.
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The views expressed in this commentary are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the collaborating organizations or funders.
Many thanks to our editor Deborah Meacham, our document designers Claudia Alvarenga and Martyn Woolley, and our web creator Benjamin Kuehn.
This paper was produced through a generous grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation. Special thanks to our colleagues Rachel E. Williams, Lea J. E. Austin, Elena Montoya, Tobi Adejumo, Penelope Whitney, Silvia Muñoz, Wanzi Muruvi, Peggy Haack, Rosemarie Vardell, Justine Modica, and Ashley Williams, for their contributions and feedback.
ECHOES, Early Childhood History Organizing Ethos, and Strategy, is a project of CSCCE that explores the history of inequities within Early Childhood Education and the roots of teacher activism for a more just system.
The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) was founded in 1999 to focus on achieving comprehensive public investments that enable and reward the early childhood workforce to deliver high-quality care and education for all children. To achieve this goal, CSCCE conducts cutting-edge research and proposes policy solutions aimed at improving how our nation prepares, supports, and rewards the early care and education workforce to ensure young children’s optimal development.