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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Study Casts Doubt on Value of Pre-K


Effects of a statewide pre-kindergarten program on children’s achievement and behavior through sixth grade.© Request Permissions

Durkin, K., Lipsey, M. W., Farran, D. C., & Wiesen, S. E. (2022). Effects of a statewide pre-kindergarten program on children’s achievement and behavior through sixth grade. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication.  Abstract:
As state-funded pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs expand, it is critical to investigate their short- and long-term effects. This article presents the results through sixth grade of a longitudinal randomized control study of the effects of a scaled-up, state-supported pre-K program. The analytic sample includes 2,990 children from low-income families who applied to oversubscribed pre-K program sites across the state and were randomly assigned to offers of admission or a wait list control. Data through sixth grade from state education records showed that the children randomly assigned to attend pre-K had lower state achievement test scores in third through sixth grades than control children, with the strongest negative effects in sixth grade. A negative effect was also found for disciplinary infractions, attendance, and receipt of special education services, with null effects on retention. The implications of these findings for pre-K policies and practices are discussed.

From the article:

While a state pre-K program is the focus of this article, a large body of research has focused on the Head Start program. However, there is only one randomized study of longer-term Head Start effects (Puma et al., 2012), one that also randomized applicants to oversubscribed programs. Head Start children had larger gains than controls on literacy and language measures (but not math) prior to kindergarten entry, but these effects disappeared by the end of kindergarten. Focusing on earlier Head Start programs, Deming (2009) conducted a study comparing siblings within the same family born between 1976 and 1986 who did or did not attend Head Start, and found long-term positive Head Start effects on adult outcomes even though test score differences faded. In a similar analysis, Pages et al. (2020) found that using the Deming sample but extending the measurement period decreased the adult effects, and data for children attending more recent Head Start programs showed mostly negative effects. Siblings who attended Head Start were less likely to be employed or enrolled in school compared to their siblings who mostly received home care. These later Head Start programs occurred within the same time window as the implementation of the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K (TNVPK) program that is the topic of the current article

Deming, D. (2009). Early childhood intervention and life cycle skill development: Evidence from Head Start. American Economic Journal. Applied Economics, 1(3), 111–134.

Pages, R., Lukes, D. J., Bailey, D. H., & Duncan, G. J. (2020). Elusive longer-run impacts of Head Start: Replication within and across cohorts. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(4), 471–492. https://doi .org/10.3102/0162373720948884

Puma, M., Bell, S., Cook, R., Heid, C., Broene, P., Jenkins, D., Mashburn, A., & Downer, J. (2012). Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study Final Report (OPRE Report # 2012-45). Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services