Over half of all pre-kindergarten 3- to 5-year-olds attend some sort of early childhood care, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Yet many kids, educators says, come to kindergarten having never picked up a pencil. To improve teaching at public and private pre-kindergarten programs and boost the odds that kids come ready to learn, Texas has launched the first program in the nation to rate preschools, day-care centers and Head Start programs on how well they prepare children for kindergarten. The School Readiness Certification System's ratings rely on the quality of the instructional practices in place, scores from the Texas Primary Reading Inventory test and a grade of 1 to 5 on children's social skills. The program is voluntary, and certification is valid for one year. It was created by the Texas State Center for Early Childhood, a branch of the University of Texas, with $4 million in state money and will initially cost about $1 million a year to operate. Officials expect about 3,500 preschool programs to sign up this fall. Soon after, an online database will be available to the public. To learn more, click here.