Publicly Funded Preschool: Impacts Across Early- and Middle-Childhood
Saturday, November 14, 2015: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Brickell Center (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Jenna E. Finch, Stanford University
Panel Chairs: Jenna E. Finch, Stanford University
Discussants: Dana McCoy, Harvard University
A growing body of research suggests that experiences in early childhood are predictive of children’s later school and life success. Publicly funded early care and education (ECE) programs offer a promising policy avenue for promoting academic achievement, especially for low-income children who enter school already behind their more advantaged peers. Empirical evidence suggests that participation in ECE programs in the year before kindergarten promotes positive short-term impacts on children’s math, language, and literacy skills, but that these effects fade out over time. Given limited public resources, it is essential to understand which ECE settings best promote early academic success and for which subgroups of vulnerable children. Subsequently, it is important to explore whether, and under what circumstances, fade out might occur.
This symposium seeks to address these questions by investigating effects of publicly funded ECE program use on children’s short and longer-term academic and social-emotional skills. Specifically, panel participants will present research exploring which ECE settings are linked to short-term gains and how these benefits play out into middle childhood. The 1st paper uses data from the Universal Preschool Child Outcomes Study to examine whether situating preschool programs within elementary schools is beneficial for children’s school readiness skills. The authors find that children who attended school-based preschool programs experienced significantly greater gains compared to those who attended non-school-based programs on pre-academic skills, but not social-emotional behaviors. The 2nd paper uses data from the ECLS-B to investigate whether links between preschool type and low-income children’s school readiness differs depending on temperament. Results demonstrate that for children with difficult temperaments, subsidized center-based care and public school-based pre-k are linked with improved academic outcomes, and Head Start is associated with better social-emotional outcomes. The 3rd paper utilizes data from the Miami School Readiness Project to explore whether public school-based pre-k and subsidized center-based care confer academic benefits on a group of low-income Latino children. The authors find that pre-k is associated with academic gains in third grade, and that these effects are partially mediated by children’s kindergarten entry academic skills. The 4th paper uses data from the Tulsa Pre-K Study explore whether contextual challenges, such as school mobility and chronic poverty, explain the fadeout of positive pre-k program effects in middle childhood. Specifically, findings show that school mobility is consistently associated with lower test scores, and that public school-based pre-k may inoculate children from the negative effects of chronic poverty on academic performance.