University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Changes Seen for Youngest Students

In Mark Your Calendar, The View from the OEP on August 31, 2016 at 11:52 am


This week, two research articles that focused on the youngest students were in the national news.  Prekindergarten will be one of three main topics at our upcoming conference Unlocking Key Challenges Facing Arkansas’ Schools.  The conference is in Little Rock on September 14th, just TWO WEEKS AWAY!

The first study reported that students who had attended Tulsa’s universal preschool had higher test scores on the state’s eighth grade math tests, were less likely to be retained and less likely to display chronic absenteeism compared to students who did not attend pre-K.

Earlier studies found evidence of positive impact from the program as these students headed into kindergarten 3 to 5 months “ahead” of their peers who did not attend preschool. Follow-up research conducted when the students were in elementary school, however, found mixed evidence of a positive effect as measured by third grade reading and math achievement tests, leading to concerns about the ‘fade out’ of any early positive impact of pre-K.

The positive results of the new middle school study, however are highly consequential outcomes that are predictive of future success including high school graduation, college enrollment, even future earnings.

If you want to learn more about the research behind the findings, and what makes Tulsa’s pre-K program high-quality, register for the upcoming OEP conference. William Gormley, PhD, one of the key researchers of the Tulsa prekindergarten program, will be addressing the research and its implications in greater detail.

The other research that we found fascinating was Recent Trends in Income, Racial, and Ethnic School Readiness Gaps at Kindergarten Entry from Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis.  The researchers found that the skills gap between high- and low-income students at kindergarten entry has declined since 1998.  Researchers suggest, “The most obvious candidate explanation for this decline is perhaps the changes in preschool enrollment patterns over this period.” Other research reported that low-income students are enrolling in preschool at rates more similar to their higher income peers since the 1990s. Although the correlation between the declining skills gap and the increasing preschool enrollment has not been identified as causal in the research, the finding is suggestive.

There are wonderful examples of high-quality prekindergarten programs throughout Arkansas. Come to our conference and and learn from practitioners and researchers about the research and practice of pre-K. There is no cost to attend and in addition to information about prekindergarten, you can learn from researchers and practitioners about effective practices in rural education and teaching diverse learners. If you haven’t already, you can register here.



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