Learn About: Evaluating Performance | Common Core
Home > Pre-kindergarten > The Research > Pre-kindergarten: What the research shows
| print Print

Pre-kindergarten: What the research shows

Across the nation, school districts are working on many fronts to ensure that no child is left behind and that all children reach academic proficiency. However, many educators are discovering that reform efforts in K–12 education systems are sometimes too little and too late. By the time some children reach kindergarten, they are already far behind their peers in skills and measures of school readiness. These educational gaps tend to be much more difficult and costly to close as children advance through elementary, middle, and high school. This realization has led many states to try to get it right from the start by expanding their financial investments in pre-kindergarten services, with a goal to better prepare young children for school success. With public schools facing heightened accountability requirements, pre-k has emerged as an important strategy to promote school readiness and close achievement gaps in elementary school and beyond.

During the 2004–2005 school year, states spent an average of $3,551 per child on pre-k services. Overall, states spent $2.84 billion on pre-k programs during that school year, an increase of 7.5 percent since 2002 (Preschool Yearbook, i.e. Barnett, Hustedt, Robin and Schulman 2005). While this amount is far behind the $240 billion that states spent on K–12 education that year, the pre-k dollars represent a growing investment in an area of education that has drawn considerable interest from school board members and other policymakers, public officials, and parents.

This research packet provides a comprehensive overview of current research on pre-k’s effectiveness. It describes the history of these programs—from smaller efforts initially targeted toward low-income and disabled children to newer programs that offer much broader access. The review focuses primarily on state-funded pre-k programs—whether school or community based—and on model early childhood programs with similar education goals. (It does not focus on Head Start or child care research, except as it relates to development and implementation of state pre-k efforts.)

To better inform leaders, this packet examines key characteristics and criteria that affect pre-k success. It also addresses a number of issues policymakers will want to consider as they assess their support for funding and implementing larger-scale pre-k programs: What lessons have we learned from several model programs of an earlier era? What do evaluations of current programs show about the short-term benefits and long-term effects of pre-k programs? What characteristics should a quality pre-k program possess

Lastly, the review offers examples of effective pre-k programs in three states. The programs, which enroll thousands of children, range from ones that serve only the neediest students to a program that is open to all four-year-olds in the state.

History of the pre-k movement

The nation’s interest in pre-k has grown considerably since 1960, when only 10 percent of the nation’s three- and four-year-olds were regularly enrolled in a classroom setting (Barnett 2003). Many factors have contributed to this increased interest, including higher maternal employment rates, national anti-poverty initiatives, and research showing the link between early childhood experiences and the brain development of young children. By 2005, 69 percent of all four year-old children nationwide participated in some type of early childhood program, including state-funded pre-k, the federal Head Start program, government-funded special education programs and non-public nursery schools or preschool centers. Over the period, state-funded pre-k grew from $25 million in 1970 to $190 million in 1988 to more than $2 billion today (Mitchell 2001).

 Federal and state initiatives contributed greatly to this growth during the past forty years. Through the mid-twentieth century, as more states implemented kindergarten services, researchers began to tout the potential benefits of early childhood education. In 1965, as part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, the federal government created Head Start, a half-day preschool program for low-income children. Originally a summer pilot program, Head Start grew to a more intensive intervention with many features, including an education component, nutrition and health screenings for children and support services for families.

With Head Start underway, much of the early activity at the state level focused on the needs of young children with disabilities. In the 1970s, several states created entitlements for free education to disabled children, aged three to five. In 1986, the federal government enacted a law with federal funding to help states provide a free education to disabled young children, and all states had such programs by 1993.

Recognizing that Head Start lacked sufficient funding to enroll a majority of low-income preschool children, many states began to institute programs to target low-income children. While only ten states had their own pre-k programs before 1980 (Gilliam and Zigler 2004), a growing number in the 1980s showed interest as part of a focus on education reform and improvement. Many state leaders also were swayed by emerging research documenting the positive effects of pre-k in a series of model programs. The landmark High/Scope Perry Preschool Project, begun in the 1960s, documented both short- and long-term gains among children exposed to a high-quality pre-k experience. Two other landmark early childhood programs, the Carolina Abecedarian project and the Chicago Child-Parent Centers, demonstrated impressive gains as well.

This emerging research helped fuel steady pre-k growth in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1991, twenty-eight states had pre-k programs primarily for at-risk youngsters, with a total enrollment of approximately 290,000. By 2005, the number of states with some type of pre-k program increased to thirty-eight (Preschool Yearbook 2005). In addition, policymakers began to consider the efficacy of expanding pre-k beyond at-risk youngsters, and a few states have embarked on efforts to create voluntary, universal pre-k for all children and families who seek such programming. Georgia was the first to create universal pre-k in 1995 for all children who wanted to receive such services. Since that time, Oklahoma, New York, and West Virginia have approved similar initiatives, though New York has not fully funded its effort, and West Virginia plans a gradual phase-in by 2012. Additionally, voters approved a universal pre-k initiative now underway in Florida. Illinois—which has a small early childhood block grant—approved a Preschool for All program for gradual implementation. A unique feature of the Illinois program is that policymakers plan to enroll three-year-olds as well as four-year-olds.

By 2005, with a total enrollment of more than 800,000 children, state pre-k programs served more four-year-olds than the federal Head Start program. Among all four-year-olds, about 17 percent attended a state pre-k program, while a similar share participated either in Head Start or public special education services. While many states continue to target youngsters with the greatest need, policymakers are seeking additional funding streams to expand services to more affluent children.

As a result of these efforts, Georgia, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia enroll more than half of all four-year-olds in public pre-k programs. Amid such growth, however, state policies vary considerably on factors such as the eligibility criteria for enrollment, the location and duration of pre-k services, and teacher education requirements.

Lessons from the past: Model early childhood programs

Many of the strongest advocates of pre-k cite three major research studies as evidence of quality and effectiveness. These studies began in the 1960s and 1970s, when awareness of preschool was still in its infancy. Yet these projects remain relevant in part because researchers tracked the short- and long-term progress of participants, including one study that followed former participants and a control group through age forty. As a result, these studies continue to produce findings cited by policymakers nationwide. The projects show a demonstrably positive effect of quality pre-k on the future lives of young children.

High/Scope Perry Preschool Project. This 1960s study included 123 low-income black children who were randomly divided into two groups—one that received a comprehensive preschool program and a second group that received no early childhood program. Those in the intervention group received a high-quality pre-k program with well-trained and compensated teachers and low child/staff ratios. Researchers then compared the progress of these children over time, assessing issues such as educational progress, delinquency, earnings, and other economic factors. The results were impressive. Approximately two-thirds of pre-k youngsters, or 65 percent, eventually graduated from high school, compared with 45 percent from the control group (Schweinhart 2004). This trend was particularly true among females, as 84 percent of pre-k girls and only 32 percent of comparison group females completed high school. Preschool participants had higher scores on achievement tests between ages nine and fourteen and on literacy tests at ages nineteen and twenty-seven.

In adulthood, Perry pre-k participants were less likely to be arrested for violent or drug crimes and had significantly fewer arrests than the comparison group. At age twenty-seven, participants were less likely to drink and smoke than those in the comparison group (Schulman 2005). In addition, 76 percent were employed at age forty—compared with 62 percent of non-participants—and averaged $5,000 a year more in income. Pre-k participants also were more likely to own their own homes and much more likely to have a savings account. (See Chart 1.)  While researchers conducted extensive follow-up with children, there were no additional services provided to pre-k participants in later grades. Those in the pre-k program generally received two years of early childhood services.

Abecedarian Project.  From 1972 to 1985, 111 children and their families participated in an early childhood study at the University of North Carolina that randomly assigned young children to a treatment group or a control group that did not receive these services. Those with the pre-k intervention had a higher IQ at ages twelve and fifteen and stronger achievement scores at age fifteen (Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute 2006). By comparison, non-program children were more likely to require special education or be retained in grade, two major costs for schools. Overall, 67 percent of Abecedarian children graduated from high school, compared with 51 percent of the control group. Of those receiving pre-k, 36 percent attended a four-year college, more than double the rate of non-program children. Unlike students in some other pre-k programs, Abecedarian children received services that began when they were infants and continued through age five. Children who received pre-k services also were eligible to obtain other social services via referral, as needed, through age eight.

Chicago Child-Parent Centers.  This program, which began in 1967 in low-income Chicago neighborhoods and continues to operate today, provides children with high-quality preschool plus follow-up services. Parents commit to volunteering time at the preschool center on a regular basis. For its long-term evaluation involving 1,539 children, researchers followed children who participated from 1983 to 1986 and compared them to children who did not participate in the program but who did attend full-day kindergarten. In addition to pre-k, children in the intervention group were eligible for follow-up services through age nine. Researchers then followed program children and a comparison group for fifteen years following the intervention, with the latest updates provided in 2001. The evaluation showed positive impacts for pre-k children on school achievement at age fourteen and in high school completion by age twenty-one (Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, and Mann 2001). Overall, program children had 41 percent fewer special education placements and 40 percent fewer grade retentions than non-participants. Children at age twenty also were less likely to have an arrest record than children in the comparison group.

In addition to producing educational gains, these programs also provided savings or benefits to federal, state, and local governments. Given the high cost to school districts of certain interventions—such as special education placement and grade retention—these cost/benefit issues are important to policymakers and provide a strong argument for pre-k intervention. One of the strongest indicators is the reduced use of special education among pre-k participants (Committee for Economic Development 2006). For example:

  • Only 15 percent of the Perry participants required special education services, compared with 34 percent of children from the control group.
  • In the Abecedarian study, 24 percent of pre-k children received special education services, versus 48 percent of the control group.
  • In the Child-Parent Centers project, only 14 percent of pre-k participants later required special education placement, compared with 25 percent of non-participants.

Economic analyses have sought to quantify these gains in real dollars. In addition, calculations have factored in savings through less delinquency and less dependence on public assistance, as well as through the revenue generated by governments based on increased employment and earnings. (See Table 1.)

Table 1
Costs and Benefits per Participant (2002 dollars)


High Scope
(at age 27)

Abecedarian Project
(at  age 22)

Chicago Child-Parent Centers 
(at age 21)

Benefits per $1 invested 
to pre-k participants and the public 

$8.74  $3.78  $10.15 
Source: Committee for Economic Development, 2006 

These findings are significant, particularly because cost/benefit analyses of pre-k continue to be a major topic of interest today. Scholars have sought to determine the expected fiscal benefits when examining the promise of expanded pre-k services. For example, an analysis for Ohio has shown that expanded pre-k may generate $1.62 in benefits for every $1 spent (CED 2006). These economic projections show that the state would recoup much of its investment through reduced crime and criminal justice costs. In addition, Ohio would produce significant savings if, as expected, fewer students are retained in grade and referred for special education services. Similar studies have shown projected savings in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Louisiana.

Lessons from the present: State-funded initiatives

Drawing on lessons from the model programs described above, thirty-eight states have developed and implemented pre-k initiatives during the past twenty-five years. Fortunately, several of these state programs integrated evaluation strategies during the development stage. These evaluations provide lessons—and challenges—for policymakers looking to modify or create effective pre-k programs.

Issues in evaluating success

Evaluation of pre-k programs is a complex process, since program models are varied, and cross-state comparisons are often difficult to make. To date, relatively few states have conducted evaluations on pre-k effectiveness, particularly studies that are rigorous and peer-reviewed (Gilliam and Zigler 2004). By 2003, although eighteen states conducted some type of evaluation of their pre-k services, most of their evaluations have focused on process issues—such as student enrollment—as well as on short-term outcomes for participating preschoolers. Only rarely have the studies examined the characteristics that work best—half versus full-day service, teacher training requirements, and progress of children based on setting (whether the pre-k program is run by the public schools or a community organization).

Programs targeted toward certain groups also pose several challenges in evaluation, since the budgets may be too small and the reach too limited to determine benefits for participants, when compared against non-participants. A few states have taken the lead in evaluating their pre-k programs, though researchers note that pre-k programs that have received evaluations to date may be much different than programs without rigorous evaluation (Gilliam and Zigler 2004). Despite these challenges, several trends have emerged on the meaning of quality for state pre-k from the states with research programs already under way.

Short-term benefits

Several national and state studies have found benefits for young children who participated in pre-k programs. In the national Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, a study that will follow 22,000 children from school entry through eighth grade, students who attended a pre-k program scored higher on reading and math tests than children receiving parental care (Gormley, Gayer, Phillips and Dawson 2004b). Students who attended a child care center or other preschool program also showed gains, although former pre-k students exhibited the greatest achievement.

In addition, several studies have documented gains for children within specific state pre-k programs:

  • Georgia: 82 percent of former participants in the state’s universal pre-k program had higher scores on third grade readiness, compared with those who did not participate in the program (Henry, Gordon, Mashburn and Ponder 2001).
  • South Carolina: A state-funded pre-k program reaching about 30 percent of four-year-olds has improved rates of school readiness since its launch in 1984 (Denton 1999). Prior to inception of the program, 60 percent of children were deemed ready for first grade. By 1998, the figure had reached 81 percent.
  • Maryland: The state’s Extended Elementary pre-k program has reduced special education placements and grade retentions in elementary school (Denton 1999).

One of the most far-reaching studies found marked increases in children’s skills across five states with pre-k services. The study from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)  examined programs in Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia and compared pre-k graduates with similar non-participants. It used an evaluation research design that proved reliable, comparing pre-k participants with children of a similar age who had not yet had the pre-k experience. For this study, researchers identified samples of children with birthdays just before and just after the pre-k eligibility cutoff date. One year later, they assessed the skills of pre-k graduates against those children who could not participate that year due to the age cutoff but who were just ready to begin pre-k.

Overall, children in state pre-k posted vocabulary scores that were 31 percent higher than those of non-participants (Barnett, Lamy, and Jung 2005). This gain placed pre-k children three months ahead of non-participants, largely due to participation in the state program. Perhaps the greatest gains occurred in print awareness, including letter recognition, letter sounds and book concepts. Pre-k participants in these states had an 85 percent increase in print awareness. Such outcomes may strongly predict later reading success.

Pre-k programs in these five states also increased children’s math gains by 44 percent, compared with non-participants. As a result of participation, children achieved gains in basic number concepts, simple addition and subtraction, and counting money.

Long-term effects

Most research in this area has focused on whether pre-k program effects faded out over time or produced long-lasting benefits for participants. Among those with long-term results is Michigan, where children from the state pre-k program had higher pass rates on the fourth-grade literacy and math tests compared with non-participants (Gilliam and Zigler 2004). An additional 24 percent of pre-k participants passed the literacy tests, while another 16 percent passed the math tests, compared with those who did not participate in the Michigan School Readiness Program. In addition, research has documented longer-term gains in these areas:

  • Attendance: New York found statistically significant effects, with higher attendance of pre-k children at fifth and sixth grades (Gilliam and Zigler 2004). Maryland documented similar effects at tenth grade.
  • Standardized tests: Texas found statistically significant gains for pre-k students in third grade, while Maryland documented similar impacts in reading and math at fifth, eighth and ninth grades. New York found gains for former pre-k children in reading and math at sixth grade.
  • Retention: Maryland, Michigan, and Florida all found gains for former pre-k children, with Maryland documenting progress at fifth, eighth, and tenth grades.
  • Special education referral/placement: Unlike results from the model early childhood programs, states were less likely to uncover gains in this area. Among eight states assessing this issue, three states—Maryland, South Carolina, and Texas—found significant differences on this issue.

Despite such data, preschool critics sometimes question the long-term benefits of pre-k, particularly whether short-term gains begin to fade out after several years. In a 2006 report, analysts from the Reason Foundation (a Libertarian think tank headquartered in California) addressed this issue directly. While the share of children attending a pre-k or similar program has grown from 16 percent to 66 percent during the past four decades, there is evidence showing that any gains do not last over time (Olsen and Snell 2006).

In particular, these critics point to a lack of meaningful gains among children in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments that many states conduct at the fourth, eighth, and twelfth grades. In Georgia and Oklahoma, two states with universal voluntary pre-k programs, fourth graders continue to trail the national average on NAEP reading scores. From 1992 to 2005, a period when both states invested heavily in pre-k, both states ranked in the bottom ten in progress on fourth-grade reading. In addition, these analysts, citing data from the state’s Kindergarten Assessment Program, said that pre-k children in Georgia showed no progress compared with other youngsters as early as kindergarten.

This research drew its own share of criticism from pre-k experts for several reasons. Some questioned the validity of using NAEP data for all students—including those who were eligible, but chose not to participate, in universal pre-k programs. This approach was not seen as reliable. NAEP may be a poor benchmark, particularly when compared to NIEER studies that directly compared pre-k graduates with those yet to receive services (Barnett 2006).

In addition, pre-k experts believe that using 1992 NAEP data as a baseline is misleading, since pre-k services were not available in Georgia and Oklahoma until later dates. If researchers instead use 1998 NAEP data as a baseline, Georgia students show moderate gains in reading and math after full implementation of universal pre-k. Using 2002 as a baseline in Oklahoma, white and Hispanic children show statistically significant progress in math scores. Nonetheless, the debate illustrates that pre-k fadeout remains an issue for conservative critics of these programs.

Other recent research on the question of fade out also might be open to interpretation, depending on the variables reviewed. Assessing data from the national Early Childhood Longitudinal Study and focusing on children with limited English proficiency, scholars from the University of California-Santa Barbara found that many cognitive gains, on average, disappeared by third grade among children who had received preschool (Rumberger and Tran 2005). However, preschool participants were less likely to be retained in grade or placed in special education.

An eleven-state study of pre-k by the Frank Porter Graham Center at the University of North Carolina also produced findings that some view as disappointing. This study focused largely on the environment of pre-k classrooms and the quality of activities and interactions within a sampling of programs within states. Using benchmarks of program quality, the study found most programs of average quality, with a minority providing good to excellent programming (Early 2005). Examining individual student achievement, the study found some gains for children from the start to the end of the school year. However, researchers did not compare children to a control group and, as a result, could not determine whether they would have achieved similar gains in parental care or other settings.

The achievement gap

A large body of research shows that low-income children often begin kindergarten behind their peers. As a result, many states have sought to bridge this readiness gap through pre-k programs. As noted previously, model studies such as High/Scope Perry and Chicago Child-Parent Centers have demonstrated achievement in promoting readiness of low-income children, particularly minorities. Among more recent studies, several have shown significant gains for pre-k among these at-risk populations. A five-state study of pre-k programs found statistically significant gains for pre-k children in early language, literacy and math development (Barnett, Lamy, and Jung 2005). The same study also found evidence of greater achievement by low-income children in print awareness skills.

The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, a national study of 14,162 kindergartners, their parents, and teachers, showed that children from extremely poor families had the strongest gains in pre-reading and math after attending a center-based preschool (Loeb, Bridges, Fuller, Rumberger, and Bassok 2005). These children attended a center-based program that was not Head Start but was a child care center, preschool, or pre-k program, as reported by the child’s parents.

Overall, researchers found an 8–9 percentile point gain for these children, compared with youngsters who were cared for entirely at home. Hispanic children with limited English proficiency achieved twice the gains in language and pre-reading skills compared with white children. Program participation also increased math proficiency among all lower-income children.

Nonetheless, children from middle- and upper-income families also experienced modest gains in pre-reading and math, compared with those who did not participate in any program. As a result, since all children may derive gains from pre-k, gaps in readiness and achievement may continue between lower-income children and their more affluent peers.

The experience of universal preschool in Georgia also illustrates both the gains and challenges of this strategy or approach. By the end of kindergarten, children who attended the state pre-k program overcame the achievement gap they faced prior to pre-k participation (Henry et al. 2004). Overall, children equaled or exceeded national norms in eight of nine standardized assessments by the time they finished kindergarten. Yet a significant gap existed between white and black children, which researchers attributed in part to factors related to family income differences.

Oklahoma, another state with pre-k for all children, has documented academic gains that may suggest a significant narrowing of achievement gaps, particularly for Hispanics. In this evaluation of pre-k in Tulsa, the state’s largest school district, Hispanic children exhibited a 79 percent gain in letter/word recognition as the result of pre-k participation (Gormley, Gayer, Phillips and Dawson 2004a). The corresponding gain for white children was 52 percent. Hispanic children also exhibited a much larger increase in applied problem-solving (54 percent versus 6 percent), which also illustrates that they may have closed achievement gaps with white children. Black children also recorded gains in these categories. A more detailed examination of Oklahoma pre-k is in the state profiles section.

In a 2006 study on at-risk children who are behind their peers, a University of Virginia scholar found that early childhood programs can alleviate learning gaps if children receive strong instructional and emotional support from teachers (Pianta 2006). Using two large-scale research studies on children in pre-k and child care, researchers examined two groups of at-risk children: children whose mothers had less than a four-year college degree and children with major behavioral, social, or academic problems. After receiving high-quality pre-k programming, children demonstrated achievement at the same level as children without these risk indicators. Yet the researchers noted that only a small percentage of young children have access to such programs, with youngsters in many settings sitting passively with little teacher engagement and few creative activities. Details of the study are in the Hoover Institution’s Education Next Journal of Opinion and Research.

Characteristics of quality pre-k programs

In creating their pre-k programs, many states have identified core requirements for program success. These include: Highly trained teachers with documented expertise in early childhood education, learning goals tied to K–3 or K–12 standards, and a policy of low child/staff ratios and class sizes that meet expert recommendations.

Staff qualifications: Strong teacher training

Model pre-k programs such as the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project have validated the benefits of hiring teachers with a strong background of education and training. In that study, teachers possessed at least a bachelor’s degree, and long-term research showed impressive results in children’s future academic achievement and earnings. Similar model programs such as the Carolina Abecedarian study and Chicago Child-Parent Centers required bachelor’s degrees for teachers. Since that time, experts have emphasized the need for teachers with college degrees who can deliver educational programming and who are paid at sufficient levels that promote retention. Among thirty-eight states with pre-k programs in 2005:

  • Twenty-five require a teacher to have at least a bachelor’s degree (Preschool Yearbook, 2005).
  • Thirty-five require teachers to have specialized training in pre-k or preschool.
  • Thirty-three require pre-k teachers to obtain at least 15 hours of in-service training.
  • Nine states exempt pre-k teachers from some requirements if they work in non-school settings, thereby creating a two-tiered system of qualifications.

In most cases, state pre-k programs have stronger teacher qualifications than those in the federal Head Start program. Only in recent years has Head Start required and then achieved a goal that half of its teachers possess at least an associate’s degree. Comparatively few have bachelor’s degrees. (See Chart 2).

While model programs such as Perry have illustrated the value of BA-credentialed teachers, more recent state pre-k studies also document the effectiveness of this strategy. In the Tulsa, Oklahoma, pre-k study cited previously, children made impressive gains in a school-based program led by teachers with bachelor’s degrees (Gormley et al. 2004a). In addition, a five-state NIEER study of Michigan, New Jersey, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Oklahoma found significant benefits for programs where virtually all teachers possessed a BA (Barnett, Lamy, and Jung 2005). Overall, children in these programs experienced 31 percent more growth in vocabulary and 85 percent greater progress in print awareness than non-participants.

An evaluation of South Carolina’s First Steps program also linked pre-k teacher skills to program quality. Teachers with more education provided more developmentally appropriate learning experiences and higher-quality activities in language, communication, fine motor skill development, and art (High/Scope 2006).

One notable exception to this trend is in Georgia, where research showed no link between teacher credentials and pre-k outcomes. While 60 percent of pre-k instructors are certified teachers, the state’s universal program requires instructors to possess only an associate’s degree or technical diploma related to early childhood education. A comprehensive study by Georgia State University found no difference in child outcomes based on the teacher’s degree attainment (Henry et al. 2004). In fact, on two math assessments, students taught by BA-degreed teachers did not score as high as youngsters whose teachers had only an associate’s degree. Researchers cited two possible factors for these findings: A strong commitment by Georgia to continuing education and technical assistance for all pre-k teachers, and new K–3 credential requirements in the state that may have enticed many certified pre-k teachers to move into the primary grades. This credentialing change “may have pulled some of the best and most highly qualified teachers from the pre-k program and into kindergarten and primary school classes,” the researchers said.

Although a bachelor’s degree requirement for teachers is standard in many states, several also have built a foundation of on-going teacher support for those without this credential (Ackerman and Barnett 2006). To help implement its BA requirement for teachers, New Jersey1 created early childhood certification programs in higher education and a scholarship program to help existing teachers upgrade their skills. The state also phased in the BA requirement, giving pre-k teachers until September 2006, to meet the standard. The state also funded a master teacher for one of every ten to twenty classrooms to provide mentoring services to other instructors.

Other states have established similar efforts. Massachusetts is gradually implementing stronger teacher requirements in community pre-k settings, requiring new teachers to possess an associate’s degree by 2010, and a bachelor’s degree by 2017 (Schumacher, Ewen, and Hart 2005). In some cases, the state and local partners are bringing higher education coursework directly to the pre-k workplace (Ackerman and Barnett 2006). One state-funded, locally controlled pre-k partnership also created articulation agreements between two- and four-year colleges to help teachers move toward the BA requirement. Such efforts are not uncommon nationwide. Overall, twenty-three states provide some scholarship or loan forgiveness for teachers seeking a BA degree (Pre-K Now 2006).

The education qualifications for assistant teachers in the pre-k environment are a related but less visible issue. While many states have set high requirements for teachers, a smaller number have imposed rules and requirements for assistants. Only twelve states require assistant pre-k teachers to possess at least a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, which certifies an individual’s competency to work in a child care setting (Barnett et al. 2005).

Learning goals and curriculum alignment

States and localities face increasingly stringent requirements for student achievement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, many states have made pre-k a key strategy to help spur educational achievement at the K–12 level and make learning outcomes a formal part of their pre-k programs. During the 2004–2005 school year, twenty-seven states with pre-k services had comprehensive early learning standards built into those programs (Preschool Yearbook 2005).

In some states, the pre-k standards are quite extensive. For example, in its universal pre-k program, Georgia has content standards in seven areas: Language and literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, creative expression, social/emotional development, and physical development. Research has found notable gains for many Georgia pre-k students, as 82 percent have posted average or better scores on third-grade readiness in comparison to national norms (Gormley, Gayer, Phillips, and Dawson 2004b). In addition, economically disadvantaged children in that state began pre-k with skills below national norms on letter and word recognition, but they began kindergarten with scores above national norms in these areas.

Overall, most state pre-k programs specify learning goals, either through learning standards or content standards (Ackerman and Barnett 2006). Yet these standards differ greatly on details, including student outcomes. In some cases, states have standards in areas such as language development but without an explanation of appropriate activities to help children attain such a standard. In New Jersey, however, the state adopted a document, Preschool Teaching and Learning Expectations: Standards of Quality, which describes expected learning outcomes in social/emotional development, creative arts, physical education, literacy, math, and other areas. Included are teaching practices that can guide teachers in helping students reach these standards. Evaluation data has showed moderate to large gains for children in vocabulary, number concepts and print awareness when compared to non-participants (Lamy, et al. 2005).

In Massachusetts, the state pre-k program, Community Partnerships for Children, has established site-specific standards that it believes will affect quality and positive student outcomes. To participate in the program, community grantees must seek accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which has set quality benchmarks in areas such as class size, teacher training and commitment to learning outcomes (Ackerman and Barnett 2006).

Another way to promote learning goals is for states to align their curriculum to provide a consistent framework of services for children aged four to eight. Quality Counts 2007 reports that forty-one states and the District of Columbia align early learning standards with elementary grade academic standards (Education Week, 2007). (http://www2.edweek.org/rc/articles/2004/10/15/qc-archive.html) However, few studies examine the strength of this alignment and its impact on the quality of education. For example, although Connecticut is a state which has pre-k and kindergarten standards, one analysis (Buch, De Mars-Johnson, Martella, and Staples 2006) found that 54 percent of the state’s kindergarten standards are centered on language development, while only 27 percent of its pre-k standards have this focus. Similarly, the pre-k standards are more focused on socioemotional and physical/motor development than the kindergarten standards are.

Standards alignment may be a necessary first step to sustain the positive effects of pre-k during elementary school, since children who attend low-quality schools often have the highest degree of preschool fadeout (Bogard and Takanishi 2005). Some of the much-lauded experimental pre-k programs also reinforce the point that elementary school quality is important to avoid a fade-out of pre-k gains. In the Chicago Child-Parent Centers program, for example, attending a high-quality elementary school was viewed as a factor in long-term student success. As part of the program, many children received extended services through third grade, and elementary schools set high priorities on parent involvement and small class sizes (Reynolds 1999). Participating elementary schools had a child/staff ratio of twelve to one at the K–3 grades. In some cases, the ratios were even smaller when including parent volunteers.

Licensing and program standards

State licensing and program standards directly affect the quality of state pre-k programs. Common ingredients of quality include the number of children per teacher, total class size, and support services for children. In model programs such as the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project and the Carolina Abecedarian study, a single teacher was responsible, on average, for less than seven children (Ackerman and Barnett 2006). In the Chicago Child-Parent Centers study, the child/staff ratio was 8.5:1. These studies also had small class sizes, from twelve in Abecedarian to seventeen in the Child-Parent Centers program. “It is noteworthy that these are the only programs that have been demonstrated to produce large long-term economic gains,” the researchers wrote. “There are no counterexamples of programs of lower quality demonstrating such results.

As a result of these findings, pre-k experts generally have identified several classroom characteristics as essential for quality programming. These include a child/staff ratio of no more than 10:1, with a maximum class size of no more than twenty children. In 2005, thirty-five states adhered to the standard on class size (Preschool Yearbook 2005). In addition, thirty-seven states had a child/staff ratio of 10:1 or better. It is noteworthy that in a five-state pre-k study that found sizable gains for enrolled children, all met these requirements on child/staff ratio and overall class size (Barnett, Lamy, and Jung 2005). (See Table 2.)

Table 2
Characteristics of State Pre-k Programs

State Percent of 4-year-olds Enrolled Length of School Day  Child/Staff ratio Maximum Class Size 
Michigan  19%  half-day  8:1  18 
New Jersey (Abbott)  79% (in Abbott districts)  full-day  15:2  15 
Oklahoma  65%  varies  10:1  20 
South Carolina  32%  half-day  10:1  20 
 West Virginia 33%  varies  10:1  20 

As discussed earlier, pre-k children from all five states achieved significant gains in basic language and math skills compared with non-participating peers. All five shared a commitment to credentialed teachers. Yet despite some basic differences in program delivery, all five had a child/staff ratio of no more than 10:1 and a maximum class size of no more than twenty.

In addition, many states have identified other program characteristics as essential for their pre-k programs. In 2005, for example:

  • Twenty-seven state pre-k programs screen children on vision, hearing and health issues.
  • Twenty-three state programs provide at least one meal per day.
  • Thirty states use regular site visits to monitor local programs.

Other considerations for pre-kindergarten

In addition to understanding specific issues—such as teacher education—that have well-defined, research-based guidelines, policymakers might also want to examine several related issues that are likely to have an impact on the quality of preschool programs. Although there has been little research to date, issues such as mixed service delivery models (in which a variety of public and private schools and community agencies offer pre-k programs) and the hours of service that programs provide are likely to have consequences and thus merit further study.

Service delivery models

Twenty-nine states with pre-k programs allow a mixed service delivery model in which public schools, public and private preschools, Head Start, and community agencies may participate in serving children. Although schools house the majority of pre-k students, about 30 percent of all enrolled children receive services in community settings (Preschool Yearbook 2005).

More than half of preschool children in at least 10 states—Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon—attend pre-k in non-school settings (Schumacher, Ewen, and Hart 2005). The highest percentage rates are in Connecticut and Oregon, where 85 percent and 83 percent of children, respectively, receive pre-k services outside of a public school. Several states specifically mandate community participation:

  • New York requires that each school district subcontract at least 10 percent of its pre-k grants to eligible community agencies.
  • By 2012, when it fully implements universal preschool, West Virginia will require community agencies to operate at least half of its pre-k classrooms, unless community programs are not available or choose not to participate.
  • Arkansas allows any accredited early childhood program to apply for funds.
  • Wisconsin requires schools to partner with community providers in delivering pre-k services.
  • Michigan has two pre-k programs—a larger program for schools based on formula funding and a smaller initiative with competitive grants to community providers.
  • Georgia’s universal pre-k program allows the state to contract with both public and private non-profits.

Diverse delivery presents several potential benefits, including more efficient use of space, greater access for families, and collaboration among providers, which may improve the overall quality of early childhood programs. Community settings also may increase the availability of child care for children and families before or after a half-day pre-k program. But challenges with diverse delivery may include different licensing requirements, uneven teacher pay and salary structures, and overall quality assurance.

Several states cited in this report for their pre-k gains—including Georgia, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Michigan—use some form of mixed service delivery. Yet for states with BA requirements for teachers, the presence of many non-school programs is a challenge as states try to promote both access and quality. As noted previously, New Jersey gradually phased in higher certification for teachers in its pre-k program, in part because it relies heavily on community-based programs. Certification and scholarship programs are other elements of its teacher education policy. Massachusetts is also phasing in teacher requirements and offering education directly at the workplace to help teachers in community settings.

Hours of service

The length of the pre-k program is often an issue to localities. While some states encourage full-day pre-k to meet parent needs or promote more learning gains, most provide flexibility in the operating hours for these services. However, funding pressures have limited many programs to no more than half a day. Only nine state pre-k programs authorize full-day service, while twelve provide half-day activities (Preschool Yearbook 2005). For another twenty-seven state pre-k programs, local agencies have the flexibility to determine the length of time children spend in pre-k. For most state-funded pre-k programs, a half day translates into 2 to 3.5 hours of service per day, four or five days per week (Ackerman and Barnett 2006).

On a related issue, twenty-nine state pre-k programs operate by academic year, generally from September through June (Preschool Yearbook 2005). Several states allow the option of year-round service, while in eighteen states localities can determine the length of pre-k programs.

With evaluations of state pre-k programs still in the evolutionary stage, there is little research to date on the effectiveness of half versus full-day programming. Among nationally recognized model early childhood programs, the Carolina Abecedarian program provided a full-day program for preschool-age children. Long-term studies showed significant gains for these children through adulthood (Frank Porter Graham Center 2006). In New Jersey, the state-funded Abbott pre-k program in thirty-one low-income districts has emphasized full-day service where possible, and this option has included six hours of a daily pre-k program supplemented by before- and after-school child care services. Children in the Abbott program had vocabulary gains 26 percent higher than children not enrolled in the program (Barnett, Lamy, and Jung 2005). Pre-k children also had significantly greater gains in basic number concepts and print awareness than children who did not participate in the intervention.

Despite these findings, there are few studies comparing the progress of children in full-day programs with those in half-day programs. One exception is an experimental study in one of the Abbott Districts conducted by the NIEER. For this experiment, children received random assignment to either a half- or full-day program. Following this intervention, children in the full-day program scored higher in applied problemsolving and picture vocabulary (Robin, Frede, and Barnett 2006). Children from full-day pre-k also posted higher achievement at the end of first grade.

Even with limited research on the topic, however, parent work schedules and increased demands within K–12 education are prompting greater interest in full-day pre-k. Some policymakers also have reviewed the experience of children in full-day kindergarten programs in assessing possible advantages of similar programming at the pre-k level. Research generally has found that, by the end of the kindergarten year, children in full-day programs achieved somewhat greater progress in reading compared with those in half-day programs (Dunton, West, and Walston 2003). However, at least one study found no differences in achievement between half- and full-day kindergarten students by the time the children reach third grade (Rathburn, West, and Germino-Husken 2004).

At least one major study has evaluated pre-k hours of service not only on children’s cognitive gains but also on social effects. In this national sample of 14,162 kindergartners and their parents and teachers in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, children who attended preschool for fifteen to thirty hours per week posted stronger cognitive gains than children in programs of shorter duration (Loeb, et al. 2005). However, those attending more than thirty hours per week generally did not make additional cognitive gains compared with those attending fifteen to thirty hours per week.

Yet the study showed that more hours in center-based programs often led to slower social development. Children attending a program for less than fifteen hours per week exhibited the best behavior characteristics, followed by those attending fifteen to thirty hours per week. Those in a center-based program for more than thirty hours per week exhibited the most problem behaviors. Moreover, the slower social development was most pronounced among higher-income children. As a result, the study found that “the benefits of longer hours of care are clearly greater for children from lower-income families.” The study produced similar findings among children with multiple years of preschool, as earlier exposure generally led to higher cognitive gains but slower social development. As noted earlier, these children attended a center-based program that was not Head Start but was a child care center, preschool or pre-k program, as reported by the child’s parents.

Funding and administrative structure

States employed a variety of strategies to fund pre-k, with general revenues the most popular source of support (National Association of State Boards of Education 2006). Georgia has funded its universal pre-k program via lottery revenues, which also have played a role in supporting pre-k efforts in North Carolina and Tennessee. Missouri has used gaming revenues to fund its program, while Kansas and Louisiana have relied on tobacco settlement funds as well as general revenues. In California, a cigarette tax funds part of the pre-k program, while Arkansas relies on a beer tax in additional to general revenue. Oklahoma has funded its universal pre-k program through general education revenues. However, it launched the initiative at a time of declining K-12 enrollment, making it easier to absorb the new pre-k costs.

States with pre-k programs also have taken new steps to improve the administrative structure at the state governance level. Georgia, Massachusetts, and Washington have created independent cabinet-level departments that consolidate early childhood programs (Pre-K Now 2006). Other states, including North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Maryland, have created an office of school readiness or early education.

Examples of effective large-scale pre-kindergarten programs

As states continue to increase pre-k access, three states have made a particularly strong commitment to program quality through teacher education, child/staff ratios, and other factors. The pre-k programs, which differ considerably within these three states, present a variety of models for policymakers to examine. Oklahoma has universal pre-k entirely operated through public schools, New Jersey has preschool-for-all within high-poverty school districts, and Michigan uses a targeted approach to work with the neediest children.


With an early commitment to a voluntary universal pre-k system, Oklahoma has gained national recognition for funding and building a comprehensive program. Legislation approved in 1990 funded pre-k for low-income children as part of an education reform package focused largely on the K–12 level. Under the pre-k initiative, public schools had the option to participate in pre-k and receive state funding of about $1,000 per child (Preschool Yearbook 2005). After preliminary results showed gains for participants, the state approved universal voluntary pre-k in 1998 to any eligible four year-old child. With an enrollment of more than 30,000 children, the state now enrolls more than 60 percent of its four-year-olds in the program—a higher percentage of eligible youngsters than any other pre-k program nationwide (Gormley, Gayer, Phillips, and Dawson 2004).

Oklahoma’s program is unique among many states because it operates entirely through the public schools. All pre-k teachers must have a college degree and certification in early childhood education. As a result, they receive the same salary as K–12 public school teachers and receive wages considerably higher than their counterparts in Head Start and child care programs. Each pre-k class has a maximum group size of twenty children, with a child/staff ratio of 10:1. Individual districts have the option to provide half- or full-day service. In 2003, fifty-six percent of the state’s pre-k programs operated for half-day. For half-day programs, schools can collaborate with Head Start and child care programs to provide additional child care and educational services.

The state funds the program through general education revenues without a dedicated pre-k line-item budget. Small to moderate budget increases, coupled with K–12 enrollment declines during the 1990s, allowed the state to fund universal pre-k with minimal reductions to other education services. The state uses age and developmentally appropriate curriculum aligned with K–12 standards, and personnel must participate in continuing education. Ninety-four percent of local school districts participate in pre-k.

Evaluations of the program have shown significant positive effects. In the most comprehensive study, Georgetown University researchers examined state-funded pre-k in Tulsa, the largest district in the state and also one of the most diverse (Gormley, Gayer, Phillips, and Dawson 2004a). To evaluate children’s gains that can be attributed to pre-k, the study compared recent pre-k graduates with children just about to start the program. The pre-k graduates were children who had barely made the age cutoff to enroll in the program, and the control group was comprised of youngsters who had just missed the age cutoff the previous year. As a result, the evaluation compared children who were very close in age and development. Researchers assessed children on letter/word identification, spelling and applied problems. (See Chart 3.)

Data showed significant gains for those who had recently completed pre-k. Compared with the control group, these children had gains of 52 percent in letter-word identification, 27 percent in spelling, and 21 percent in applied problems (Gormley, et al. 2004a). Hispanic and black   students achieved statistically significant gains in all three of these categories. All socioeconomic groups showed gains, with those from the lowest income levels posting statistically significant gains in all categories. Overall, test scores were 16 percent higher among those who had completed the program. Hispanics achieved an average gain of 54 percent.

New Jersey

A 1998 state Supreme Court ruling led to the development of an ambitious pre-k program for New Jersey. In a settlement to the Abbott v Burke lawsuit on unequal education funding, the court ruled that the state must fund high-quality pre-k services in thirty-one low-income districts to give at-risk children a stronger foundation for learning. The Abbott program began in the 1999–2000 school year, and the state also formed the Early Learning Improvement Consortium to perform research on the program’s effectiveness. Unique among many states, the Abbott program is open to three-year-olds and four-year-olds (Preschool Yearbook 2005).

Under Abbott, the state Department of Education funds a six-hour-a-day program that operates 180 days per year. To help working families, the state Department of Human Services provides wraparound child care service both before and after the pre-k program, plus full-day service during the summer. As a result of this partnership, children in the school districts can receive service for up ten hours of care and education per day for 245 days a year. To qualify for the Abbott program, school districts must have a student poverty rate of at least 40 percent.

From its first-year enrollment of 19,000 youngsters, the program grew to 43,000 children by the 2005–2006 school year. The educational program is tied closely to kindergarten core content standards, and the state publishes a series of Abbott Preschool Implementation Guidelines. So that districts are meeting these standards, the state Department of Education has a continuous cycle of evaluation and improvement known as the Self-Assessment Validation System for Abbott Preschool Programs.

Evaluation data from the program has shown increased student achievement. Overall, participants had gains of 26 percent in vocabulary when compared with children not enrolled in the program (Lamy, Barnett, and Jung 2005a). In basic number concepts, students from the pre-k program posted gains 25 percent higher than non-participants. The program also showed a sharply positive increase in students’ print awareness. Compared with non-participants, those enrolled in the Abbott program had a 61 percent gain in awareness covering letters, letter-sound associations, and word recognition. (See Chart 4.)

Ninety-nine percent of the teachers in the New Jersey program have earned a bachelor’s degree, while the state also has trained about 200 master teachers to serve as professional development coaches in preschool centers. The state also requires leadership training for directors at child care centers that provide coverage for these children.

The success of the Abbott program has spurred interest in additional pre-k services for other children, and New Jersey has created two other pre-k programs for children residing outside these high-poverty districts. Early Childhood Program Aid supports half-day preschool in 102 additional school districts, with a focus on those with poverty rates of 20–40 percent (Preschool Yearbook 2005). Most programs are based in schools, but other operators include Head Start and private child care programs. This program is not exclusively limited to pre-k services, as localities can use funds for full-day kindergarten.

All districts are eligible for another state pre-k initiative, Early Launch to Learning. This program is open to all children, though funding is based largely on the number of low-income children enrolled in the district. Through these three programs, the state spent $432 million on pre-k in 2005, or state spending of $3,905 per participating child.


The Michigan State Readiness Program began in 1985, as a pilot to help educationally at-risk children. Through expansions during the past two decades, the program has grown to its current level of service with 24,862 pre-k children (Preschool Yearbook 2005). Under state rules, at least half of all enrolled children must come from low-income families. Those that do not meet the criteria still may participate if they have at least two of twenty-five identified risk factors. School districts receive formula funding directly from the state government, while Head Start and community-based organizations are eligible for competitive grants. Additionally, districts may subcontract with other agencies for school-based programs.

Programs must operate at least 2.5 hours per day four days per week, with at least thirty weeks of service per year. For programs based within schools, teachers must possess a bachelor’s degree with early childhood education endorsement. Teachers in programs not operated by schools must only possess a Child Development Associate credential, a national credential that certifies training and experience in a child care setting. Maximum class size is eighteen, while the child-to-staff ratio is 8:1. The state spends $83 million on the program, or about $3,366 for each enrolled child.

Beginning in 2003, public schools could use some of these funds for parent involvement and other educational services. The state also recently created an Early Childhood Investment Corporation to establish additional standards and guidelines for early childhood programs. Statewide, the MSRP serves 19 percent of all four-year-olds.

Similar to results of long-term research of past participants by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, which found tangible program benefits for children and their parents, Michigan’s pre-k participants had higher test scores and lower retention rates compared with non-participants by fourth grade. Approximately 55 percent of pre-k participants passed the state’s fourth grade math test, while the rate for non-participants was 48 percent (Xiang and Schweinhart 2002). Pre-k children also showed similar progress on the state’s reading test. Additionally, MSRP children were less likely to be retained from grades one through four. By second grade, for example, only 8 percent of pre-k children were retained compared with 16 percent of other children. Parents of MSRP children also had higher levels of school involvement through elementary school than other adults.

However, teacher salaries varied greatly based on the organization sponsoring the pre-k program. Teachers in public school programs earned nearly $40,000 on average, while teachers based at community agencies typically earned less than $22,000 annually.

To help meet both parent and child needs, Michigan, in 1999, also awarded funds to a limited number of grantees specifically providing full-day pre-k programs. The Michigan Full-Day Preschool Program funded thirty-two grantees, followed by a second round to thirty-four additional agencies (Jurkiewicz and Schweinhart 2004). Grantees received considerable flexibility to design programs to meet parent needs, and long-term evaluation studies are underway.


State pre-k programs are growing at a fast rate, accompanied by an increased emphasis on quality and outcomes. For many years, much of the research on these programs has focused on process issues—the number of participating children, the type of state rules and regulations, and differences in service hours and program delivery. But a larger body of research is developing on effective practices, from teacher qualifications to short- and long-term outcomes for students.

Extensive research in at least five states—New Jersey, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia—has demonstrated beneficial effects of pre-k by comparing participants to those of a similar age who have not received services. This research shows the importance of low child/staff ratios, small class sizes, and teacher qualifications in the effective delivery of programs. Regardless of pre-k setting, whether at a school or community agency, teacher qualifications are essential. Among thirty-eight states with pre-k programs, twenty-five require teachers to possess at least a bachelor’s degree. Thirty-five also require teachers to have specialized training in pre-k or early childhood.

More states are also examining the long-term effects of pre-k on issues such as special education placement and retention—two interventions that add significantly to state and local education costs. To date, at least five states show long-term declines in retention and special education placements for pre-k participants.

Research has found many pre-k programs effective in improving the math and literacy skills of low-income children, a target of many state initiatives. Universal, preschool-for-all programs in Georgia and Oklahoma have documented progress in reducing the school readiness gap facing at-risk children.

Challenges remain, however, in documenting pre-k effectiveness. Only about half of the states with pre-k programs have conducted rigorous evaluations, and most researchers identify a need for additional study on both short- and long-term benefits of these services. With many states using community-based providers and schools, programs are likely to look much different from state to state and even community to community. It is important, then, for state policymakers to examine key characteristics of pre-k quality as they seek to develop and implement effective programs.

 Much of the research and statistics in this brief comes from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. This institute supports early childhood education initiatives by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research, and publishes an annual report, called The State of Preschool Yearbook. Another excellent source for information and statistics is Pre-K Now, an advocacy and public education organization supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts and other funders.

1 New Jersey’s pre-k program stems from a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling (from the Abbott v Burke lawsuit on unequal education funding). To give at-risk children a stronger foundation for learning, the court ruled that the state must fund high-quality pre-k services in thirty-one low-income districts (known as Abbott Districts). The court has also stipulated teacher qualifications, hours of service, and other program characteristics. [back to text]


Ackerman, D., 2005. Getting Teachers from Here to There: Examining Issues Related to an Early Care and Education Teacher Policy. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Ackerman, D, and Barnett, W.S., 2006. Increasing the Effectiveness of Pre-K Programs. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Barnett, W. S., 2004.  Better Teachers: Better Preschools: Student Achievement Linked to Teacher Qualifications, NIEER policy brief. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Barnett, W. S., 2006. A Review of the Reason Foundation’s Report on Preschool and Kindergraten. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Barnett, W. S., Brown, K., and Shore, R, 2004. The Universal v. Targeted Debate: Should the United States have Preschool for All? New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Barnett, W. S., Lamy, C., and Jung, K., 2005. The Effects of State Prekindergarten Programs on Young Children’s School Readiness in Five States. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Barnett, W. S., Hustedt, J., Robin, K., and Schulman, K, 2005. The State of Preschool Yearbook, 2005. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Barnett, W. S., Hustedt, J., Robin, K., and Schulman, K., 2003. The State of Preschool Yearbook, 2003. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Bogard, K. and Takanishi, R, 2005. PK-3: An Aligned and Coordinated Approach to Education for Children 3 to 8 Years Old. Ann Arbor, MI: Society for Research in Child Development, Social Policy Report, Vol. 19, 3.

Buch, L., De Mars-Johnson, R., Martella, J. and Staples, J. “A Weaving, A Tapestry, A Sculpture? Aligning Standards in Early Childhood.” Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.   Retrieved December 8, 2006 fromhttp://www.ccsso.org/content/PDFs/FINAL%20A%20Weaving%2C%20A%20Tapestry%2C%20A%20Sculpture%206%204%2006.pdf

Burchinal, M.R., Cryer, D., Clifford. R.M., and Howes, C., 2002. Caregiver Training and Classroom Quality in Child Care Centers, Applied Developmental Science, 6, 1, 42-57.

Committee for Economic Development, 2006.  The Economic Promise of Investing in High-Quality Preschool. Washington, DC: CED.

Denton, D., 1999. Prekindergarten and Parent Support Programs. Atlanta: Southern Regional Education Board.

Denton, K., West, J., and Walston, J., 2003. Reading—Young Children’s Achievement and Classroom Experiences. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2003-070..

Education Week, 2007. Quality Counts 2007. Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education.

Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, Early Learning, Later Success: The Abecedarian Study, 2006. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina.

Frede, E., and Ackerman, D., 2006. Curriculum Decision-Making: Dimensions to Consider.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Garrett, S., 2004. Early Childhood Education in Oklahoma: Pre-K Fact Sheet, 2004. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Department of Education.

Gilliam, W. and Zigler, E., 2004. State Efforts to Evaluate the Effects of Prekindergarten 1977-2003. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Child Study Center.

Gormley, W., and Phillips, D. 2003. The Effects of Universal Pre-K in Oklahoma: Research Highlights and Policy Implications. Washington, DC: Georgetown University, Center for Research on Children in the U.S.

Gormley, W., Gayer, T., Phillips, D., and Dawson, B., 2004a. The Effects of Oklahoma’s Universal Pre-K on School Readiness.  Washington, DC: Georgetown University, Center for Research on Children in the U.S.

Gormley, W., Gayer, T., Phillips, D., and Dawson, B., 2004b. The Effects of Universal Pre-K on Cognitive Development.  Washington, DC: Georgetown University, Center for Research on Children in the U.S.

Henry, G., Gordon, C., Mashburn, A. and Ponder, B., 2001. Pre-K Longitudinal Study: Findings from the 1999-2000 School Year. Atlanta GA: Georgia State University, Applied Research Center.

Henry, G. and Rickman, D., 2005. The Georgia Early Childhood Study 2001-2004.  Atlanta: Georgia State University, Applied Research Center.

Henry, G., Ponder, B., Rickman, D., Mashburn, A., Henderson, L., and Gordon, C., 2004. An Evaluation of the Implementation of Georgia’s Pre-K Program: Report of the Findings from the Georgia Early Childhood Study. Atlanta: Georgia State University, Applied Research Center.

High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 2006. From Implementation to Impact: An Evaluation of the South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness Program. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation.

Jurkiewicz, T. and Schweinhart, L., 2004. Realizing the Potential: Final Report of the Michigan Full-Day Preschool Program Comparison Study. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation.

Lamy, C., Barnett, W.S., and Jung, K., 2005a. The Effects of New Jersey’s Abbott Preschool Program on Young Children’s School Readiness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Lamy, C., Barnett, W.S., and Jung, K., 2005b. The Effects of South Carolina’s Early Childhood Programs on Young Children’s School Readiness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Loeb, S., Bridges, M., Fuller, B., Rumberger, R., and Bassok, D., 2005. How Much is Too Much? The Influence of Preschool Centers on Children’s Social and Economic Development. Berkeley, CA: University of California and Stanford University.

Mitchell, A., 2001. Prekindergarten Programs in the States: Trends and Issues. Climax, NY: Early Childhood Policy Research.

National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education, 2003. Joint Position Statement on Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment and Program Evaluation Building an Effective, Accountable System in Programs for Children Birth to Age 8. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children, www.naeyc.org/about/positions/cape.asp.

National Association of State Boards of Education, 2006. Fulfilling the Promise of Preschool. Alexandria, VA: NASBE.

Olsen, D. and Snell, L., 2006. Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten: Essential Information for Parents, Teachers and Policymakers. Los Angeles: Reason Foundation.

Pianta, Robert, 2006. Preschool Is School, Sometimes. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, Education Next, 2007, 1. Retrieved fromhttp://www.hoover.org/publications/ednext/4612287.html

Pre-K Now, 2006. Pre-K Momentum. Washington, DC: Pre-K Now.

Preschool Yearbook – see Barnett, Hustedt, Robin and Schulman

Puma, M., Bell, S., Cook, R., Heid, C., Lopez, M., Zill, N., Shapiro, G., 2005. Head Start Impact Study: First-Year Findings. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

Rathburn, A., West, J., and Germino-Hauksen, E., 2004. From Kindergarten Through Third Grade: Children’s Beginning School Experiences. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Education Department, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2004-007.

Reynolds, A., Temple, J., Robertson, D., and Mann, E., 2001. Age 21 Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Title I Chicago Child-Parent Center Program. Chicago: Chicago Public Schools.

Reynolds, A., 1999. The Chicago Longitudinal Study: A Study of Children in the Chicago Public Schools. Madison, WI and Chicago: University of Wisconsin-Madison and Chicago Public Schools.

Robin, K., Frede, E., Barnett, W.S., 2006.  Is More Better? The Effects of Full-Day vs. Half-Day Preschool on Early School Achievement. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Rumberger, R., and Tran, L., 2006.  Preschool Participation and the Cognitive and Social Development of Language Minority Students. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, Center for the Study of Evaluation

Schulman, K., 2005. Overlooked Benefits of Pre-Kindergarten, NIEER Policy Report. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Schulman, K., and Barnett, W.S., 2006. What Impacts Does Preschool Education Have on Personal Responsibility and Related Social Behavior?  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University, National Institute for Early Education Research.

Schumacher, R., Ewen, D., and Hart, K., 2005. All Together Now: State Experiences in Using Community-Based Child Care To Provide Pre-Kindergarten. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy.

Schweinhart, L.J., 2004. The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through Age 40, Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation.

Schweinhart, L.J., and Weikart, D., 1997. Lasting Differences: The High/Scope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study through Age 23. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.

Southern Education Foundation, 2006. Miles to Go, Arkansas: Pre-Kindergarten --  A Better Future for All. Atlanta: Southern Education Foundation.

Xiang, Z., and Schweinhart, L., 2002.  Effects Five Years Later: The MSRP Evaluation through Age 10.  Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation.

Zigler, E., Gilliam, W., and Jones, S., 2006. A Vision for Universal Prekindergarten. New York: Cambridge University Press.

We gratefully acknowledge The Pew Charitable Trusts for its support of our work related to pre-kindergarten. The views expressed are those of the Center for Public Education and not necessarily those of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

This document was prepared for the Center for Public Education by Eileen M. O’Brien and Chuck Dervarics. O’Brien is an independent education researcher and consultant in Alexandria, Virginia. Much of her work has focused on access to quality education for disadvantaged and minority populations. O’Brien has a Master of Public Administration from George Washington University and a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Loyola University, Chicago. Chuck Dervarics is an education writer and former editor of Report on Preschool Programs, a national independent newsletter on pre-k, Head Start, and child care policy. As a writer and researcher, he has contributed to case studies and research projects of the Southern Education Foundation, the American Council on Education, and the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, often focusing on issues facing disadvantaged populations. Dervarics has a Bachelors degree from George Washington University.

Posted: March , 2007

©2007 Center for Public Education

Add Your Comments

Display name as (required):  

Comments (max 2000 characters):


Home > Pre-kindergarten > The Research > Pre-kindergarten: What the research shows