Located on the southern end of the peninsula that separates the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, Maryland’s sparsely populated Somerset County is the state’s poorest. Household income in 2014 was $36,106 according to the U.S. Census, less than half that of the counties at the other end of the spectrum, including Calvert ($91,993), Montgomery ($97,873) and Howard ($108,503).
But on Maryland’s 2018 kindergarten readiness assessment, Somerset County surpassed most of the state. It came in third among counties at 60 percent, 13 points ahead of the state average. And it was also a jump from four years prior, when 47 percent of children in Somerset County were found to be ready for kindergarten.
Somerset school officials say the reason for the performance is simple: The county offers universal, full-day pre-K to all 4-year-olds.
“It makes a huge difference. What we see is those children who went to pre-K definitely do better than those children who did not,” says Karen Karten, the early education coordinator for the county’s public schools, talking about the jump to kindergarten.