Effectiveness of Pre-K Programs Impacted by Neighborhood Conditions

A study in the American Educational Research Journal shows that Tennessee children from high-poverty neighborhoods who attended pre-k show significantly higher 3rd grade reading scores than peers in similar socioeconomic conditions. Francis Pearman, the study’s author, also explained that the children’s 3rd grade math achievement score was not impacted due to the program, regardless of whether children lived in moderate- or low-income neighborhoods.

From Education Dive’s article:

The study also has implications for the ongoing debate over whether public preschool programs should be accessible to all children or targeted to those in poverty or facing other risk factors. Pearman suggests that one way for universal pre-K programs to reach children who would be more likely to benefit is to prioritize high-poverty areas when selecting sites for new centers. Another strategy would be to make sure families in low-income neighborhoods have information about and adequate transportation to centers in higher-income neighborhoods.

Pearman also notes that future studies should look at if similar patterns exist in other states, as well as whether outcomes also vary by children’s neighborhoods in the areas including executive function skills, attendance and grade retention.

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