An At-a-Glance Summary of Findings From Research About the Effectiveness of Pre-K
Key Lessons: What Research Says About Pre-K
With public schools facing heightened accountability requirements, pre-k has emerged as an important strategy to promote school readiness and achievement in elementary school and beyond.
The key lessons below summarize the current research on pre-k's effectiveness.
High-quality pre-kindergarten programs can generate savings for states and school districts through fewer special education placements, grade retentions, and remedial services (Gilliam and Zigler 2004).
While many states are expanding access to pre-k, they are also striving to improve quality.
Small class sizes, well-trained teachers and low child/staff ratios are generally recognized as major ingredients of good pre-k programs.
Highly trained teachers are essential for the success of state pre-k programs.
States with a strong record of math and language achievement required teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree and specialized training in early childhood education (Barnett, Lamy, and Jung 2005).
On-going professional development for teachers is another important ingredient in effective pre-k programs.
Successful states employed a variety of strategies, including new certification and scholarship programs, master teacher initiatives, and program accreditation requirements so that teachers and staff made a commitment to continuing education (Ackerman and Barnett 2006).
- State pre-k programs are effective when they employ low child/staff ratios and class sizes.
In most cases, programs judged as effective generally had a child/staff ratio of not more than 10:1, with a group size of not more than twenty children (Barnett, Lamy and Jung, 2005).
Smaller model pre-k programs can serve as a helpful guide for states considering new pre-k programs.
Long-term research has shown considerable benefits over time for participants in programs such as the High/Scope Perry Preschool Study, the Abecedarian Project, and the Chicago Child-Parent Centers (Committee for Economic Development 2006).
While some critics cite a possible fade-out of program effects for children over time, a number of states have documented both short- and long-term gains from pre-k, (Barnett 2006).
However, only about half of states with pre-k programs have conducted rigorous evaluations of their services (Gilliam and Zigler 2004).
Twenty-seven states with pre-k programs had comprehensive learning standards for their programs (Preschool Yearbook 2005).
One state identified content standards in seven areas, from language and literacy to math and creative expression (Lamy, et al. 2005).
Pre-k hours of service vary greatly among states.
While many provide funding for half-day programs, several have opted for full-day services and others leave the issue to the discretion of local school districts (Preschool Yearbook 2005).
Reprinted with the permission of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. © 2007, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding
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