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Nonrural Districts See Faster Growth In PreK Participation

While rural West Virginia districts have had the highest prekindergarten participation rates for the past decade, nonrural districts have caught up in recent years, according to a new study by the Regional Education Laboratory Appalachia.

Rural districts were beating nonrural districts' participation rates by about 10 percentage points in 2002-03 at 32 percent, but nonrural districts have had faster growth since 2008-09, according to "Prekindergarten participation rates in West Virginia." By 2009-10, the average prekindergarten participation rates were the same for both types of districts, at 59 percent, and again in 2010-11 at 63 percent.

Overall, West Virginia has seen its participation rate more than double since starting its voluntary preK program in 2002, going from 26 percent to 63 percent in 2010-11.

"Research shows that preK participation can help students achieve success later in school," said Thomas M. Geraghty, the study's lead author, in a statement. "The fact that West Virginia is increasingly realizing the goal of equal participation in its public preK program among population subgroups and across different regions of the state is therefore welcome news."

About 30 of the state's 55 districts are rural, and 25 of those are considered high-poverty. Those high-poverty rural districts have had higher participation rates than rural or nonrural districts or the statewide average since 2002-03. In 2010-11, the preK participation rate in high-poverty districts was 69 percent.

Other findings include:

  • Participation rates of racial/ethnic minority children is higher than the statewide average and mirrors statewide growth in prekindergarten participation;

  • The participation rate of special education students was an average 8 percentage points higher in rural districts than in nonrural districts from 2002-03 through 2010-11; and

  • Since 2006-07, the participation rate of high-poverty children has grown faster than and exceeds the statewide participation rate.

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