Poster Paper: Evaluation of an Innovative Funding Mechanism for Public Preschool - Chicago Pay for Success Project

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Erika Gaylor, Donna Spiker and Kate Ferguson, SRI International

This poster will include the first three years of findings from an evaluation of a Pay-for-Success (PFS)-funded early childhood project in the Chicago Public Schools. A PFS project uses an innovative funding model where private investments are leveraged to support programs with potentially high returns on investment. In a PFS project, clearly defined and measurable performance goals for the program’s services are determined up front. Private funders pay for the cost of the services, and government pays back the private funders, with a reasonable return, only if the performance goals (or outcomes) are achieved. Some of the potential benefits of using PFS funding include helping to shift funds from remediation to prevention activities and funding programs and services that work. It also helps provide capital for projects that may not otherwise have been implemented or have strong evidence of effectiveness but limited available funding. In the city of Chicago, investors’ funding is being used by the city and the school district to pay for the operational costs of expanding access to the Child-Parent Center (CPC) program for low-income four-year olds. The CPC program has a strong evidence-base demonstrating better academic achievement, higher graduation rates, and lower special education rates (Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, & Mann, 2002). This evidence was the basis for the selection of the three outcomes used to evaluate the success of the project: kindergarten readiness, special education placement, and third grade reading scores.

This poster includes findings from the project’s first three years and includes outcomes on kindergarten readiness for three cohorts of recipients and special education outcomes for kindergarten and first grade compared with a matched-comparison group. The three cohorts include four year olds attending part- or full-day preschool at one of nine sites that received PFS funding in the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 school years for a total of kindergarten readiness data on over 1,500 children and special education rates in kindergarten for approximately 1,500 children in the intervention cohorts as well as a matched-comparison group of over 18,000 children.

Because the results of the year 3 report are still under review, we can only share findings from the first two reports in the abstract. In the first two years of the project, the evaluation found that 61% of children demonstrated kindergarten readiness in year 1 and 44% of children demonstrated kindergarten readiness in year 2. This decrease in kindergarten readiness may be attributed to different populations of children from year to year. We also found a reduction in special education for year 1 participants at kindergarten (4.38%) compared with children who were similar but did not attend preschool in the district (4.94%). This is a difference of 0.56% in the rate of special education use between the two groups, and is an 11% decrease for the treatment group relative to the comparison group. The poster will include findings from year 3 participants’ kindergarten readiness as well as the rate of IEPs as we followed cohort 1 into first grade and cohort 2 into kindergarten.