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Sustaining the Boost: Longitudinal Impacts of the Boston Prekindergarten Program and Variation in Impacts 

Purpose

“Sustaining the Boost: Longitudinal Impacts of the Boston Prekindergarten Program and Variation in Impacts” is an IES-funded retrospective efficacy study of the short- and medium-term impacts of the Boston public prekindergarten program on key child academic and school progress outcomes.  The study also examines cross-school variation in the persistence of child-level impacts and predictors of variation in sustained impacts using new and innovative methodology that has not yet been applied to public prekindergarten programs. Key outcomes in the study are children’s kindergarten, first grade, and third grade literacy skills, children’s third-grade mathematics skills, children’s third-grade grade retention, and children’s third-grade special education receipt. Study data come from the Boston Public Schools (BPS) prekindergarten program - a school readiness program in a large urban school district that serves a racially/ethnically-, income-, and language-diverse student population. 

In a prior IES-funded study, PIs of our team found that the BPS prekindergarten program has the largest impacts on children’s beginning-of-kindergarten language and mathematics skills of any rigorously evaluated public prekindergarten program, as well as small but developmentally important effects on children’s executive function skills (Weiland & Yoshikawa, 2013). BPS prekindergarten is unique among rigorously evaluated public prekindergarten programs in its district-wide use of quality supports that have a strong research basis in the field – proven early childhood curricula (language, literacy, and mathematics) implemented in conjunction with bi-weekly visits from an early childhood coach. These programmatic decisions were made by district officials and implemented without extensive involvement of curricula developers. 

Given conversations and debates nationally on public preschool program expansion, study results stand to have high practical value in informing public prekindergarten programmatic decisions and public policy proposals, as well as in identifying the conditions under which prekindergarten impacts do versus do not persist.