Children can be 18 months behind their peers by the time they enter kindergarten. And many of these children never catch up, becoming those most at-risk of dropping out. To truly address the high school graduation crisis, we need to ensure that all children enter kindergarten with the academic, cognitive, social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school and in life. Rigorous studies have shown that high-quality early learning programs can improve both short- and long-term academic performance and other life outcomes. For example, a study by the National Institute for Early Education Research found that New Jersey’s current pre-kindergarten program reduced grade retention by as much as 50%. In Louisiana, the LA 4 program has been found to reduce special education placement by 49 percent by second grade. The Perry Preschool Study found that its program for severely disadvantaged children improved high school graduation rates by 28 percent.