Pre-K Can Help Disadvantaged Students, Studies Show

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 95 views 

Economically disadvantaged students who participated in an Arkansas Better Chance-funded pre-kindergarten program were more likely to be prepared to enter kindergarten than disadvantaged students who didn’t, two studies indicate.

However, in one study, economically advantaged students who did not attend pre-kindergarten classes scored better than advantaged students who did.

The Arkansas Research Center found that half of the economically disadvantaged students (those eligible for free and reduced price school lunches) who had attended an ABC-funded program were more likely to enter kindergarten in 2012 scoring “developed” on the Quals Early Learning Inventory. Forty-one percent who were not known to have attended a pre-K school reached that score. The other scores are “not developed” and “developing.”

Meanwhile, 70 percent of economically advantaged students who did not attend an ABC-funded pre-K school scored developed, versus 64 percent of ABC students.

The comparisons were consistent across five subtests: oral communication, written language, match concepts, work habits, and attentive behavior. Advantaged students with no pre-K scored best in every category, followed by advantaged students who had attended an ABC center. Next were disadvantaged students who had attended ABC classes followed by disadvantaged students who had attended no classes. The findings have been consistent since 2008.

ABC programs are housed in public schools, Head Start facilities, and elsewhere.

The Arkansas Research Center was funded by a 2009 grant to the Arkansas Department of Education from the Institute of Education Sciences. The study’s authors were Sarah Argue, early childhood education project director, and Dr. Greg Holland, director of research and development.

A study by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University found positive effects for children who attended ABC-funded programs at the end of first and second grades for vocabulary and math, and at the end of the third grade in literacy.

The advantages of an ABC program dissipated at the end of the third grade, however. The study’s authors said one explanation might be that ABC children were less likely to get individual attention than those who had entered kindergarten behind their peers. ABC children also were less likely to be held back a grade.

Arkansas has one of the nation’s faster growing enrollments in pre-K classes in recent years, according to that report. The ABC program began in 1991 but was expanded in 2004, after which participation grew exponentially. In 2003-04, there were 3,104 Arkansas children enrolled in center-based programs. By 2010-11, 44 percent of the state’s four-year-olds were enrolled at a cost of $5,021 in state spending per child and $8,126 when counting all funding sources. The state spent $111 million for center-based programs that year.