Efficacy of School-Based Pre-K Program Sites in a Metro-Atlanta School District
What are the impacts of attending a school-based Georgia Pre-K site on students’ academic achievement, attendance, and discipline in elementary grades relative to students who were waitlisted for admission and did not end up enrolling in any site in Georgia’s Pre-K Program?
In this report, Henry T. Woodyard, Tim R. Sass, and Ishtiaque Fazlul estimated the effects of attending an oversubscribed school-based Georgia’s Pre-K Program on achievement, attendance, and discipline in elementary school. Using waitlist data for oversubscribed school-based pre-K sites in one metro-Atlanta school district, we compared students who gained a seat through an enrollment lottery and attended a school-based site in Georgia’s Pre-K Program to students who did not gain a seat through a lottery and did not go to any (school-based or non-school-based) site in Georgia’s Pre-K Program.
We find that students selected in a lottery enter kindergarten significantly more prepared academically, scoring around six national percentiles higher than their non-selected peers on nationally-normed formative assessments. However, these gains fade by the end of kindergarten, and some negative effects on achievement emerge by Grade 4. Measured benefits are larger when we only consider students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals (FRPM), suggesting that attending pre-K may be more beneficial for students from families experiencing low income. While selected students were no less likely than non-selected students to commit a disciplinary infraction in any grade, they did miss about one fewer day of instruction in each grade after kindergarten. The broad patterns we find are consistent with previous studies of the efficacy of universal pre-K programs elsewhere.
The limitations of our analysis make us cautious in providing policy recommendations. However, given that one distinguishing characteristic of school-based pre-K sites is that they offer transportation, offering students with limited transportation options priority at sites which offer transportation could be impactful. Similarly, providing additional funding could help non-school-based sites overcome the cost of providing transportation. Finally, informing parents of non-selected students of next steps and other options within Georgia’s Pre-K Program may reduce the chance that their child does not attend any formal pre-K.
To read more, please download the report below.