“In 2016, heading into her 15th year as a kindergarten teacher, Kristy Caesar knew what to expect from a room full of 5-year-olds.

“But what greeted her on that first day of school last year was an eye opener — she had 21 kindergartners and only four had attended preschool. Eighteen students couldn’t recognize a single phonetic letter sound, such as the sound ‘A’ makes.

“ ‘It was so challenging; they were months behind,’ said Caesar, who teaches at Kennedy Elementary School in Lindsay, in California’s Central Valley. She recalled thinking, ‘Something needs to change. I can’t keep getting learners who have never gone to preschool.’ ”

“A year later, things did change.

“This past fall, the Lindsay Unified School District, in a small farming community in Tulare County, implemented universal preschool, meaning every child from birth to 4 years old, regardless of family income, can attend a program in the district for free.”

“Facing unprepared kindergartners, a rural school district restores preschool for all,” EdSource, April 3, 2018