Effects of School-Based Pre-K Programs
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
It is well established that there is a strong link between K-12 performance and later adult outcomes, such as post-secondary education attainment, teenage pregnancy, criminal activity, and adult employment and earnings. Literature shows that differences in educational performance appear early in life and it is increasingly difficult to remediate disparities in education as children age. Many have suggested prioritizing early educational interventions as a means of improving performance both in childhood and later in life. But the evidence of effectiveness of pre-K in medium and long run is inconclusive. While the effect of early small-scale model pre-K programs such as the Perry Pre-school Program and Carolina Abecedarian Project is generally positive, evidence on bigger scale state-run pre-K programs is mixed. With 43 states plus the District of Columbia operating state-funded pre-K programs in the US, it is important to understand their impacts on student outcomes. Moreover, Pre-K programs come in different flavors in terms of target population (non means tested which is also known as “universal” vs means tested), financing (tax dollar vs lottery revenue funded), wrap-around services (free after-care vs no after-care etc.), site of instruction (the classroom can be housed in a public school vs a private child learning center) and all of these factors can potentially affect outcomes. Consequently, to have convincing evidence on the effect of pre-K, it’s important to have a body of work that investigates the different types of pre-K.
The papers in this panel evaluate a variety of school-based pre-K programs in terms of the target population, financing and site of instruction. The papers are also varied in the outcomes they investigate (test score, attendance, discipline; test scores being a constant in all 3) and the perspectives of the authors (academics from education policy, economics and public policy schools). The papers use a diverse set of tools and methods ranging from multivariate regression analysis to randomized experiments as well as diverse data sources such as universe of individual level data from a few school districts and national level sample data. The papers in this panel, together, contributes to the body of literature needed to understand and quantify the effects of school-based pre-K schooling in the US.