As the furor fades over last week’s Tennessee preschool study (which showed no positive effect on attendees by the end of 3rd grade), I’m finally getting back to a study done in Miami that came out a few weeks ago and that shows the exact opposite effect.
This study, by the National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families, looked at academic performance data for 11,894 Hispanic children who attended Miami’s public preschool program and continued in Miami public schools through 3rd grade. The study was not a randomized control trial; rather it examined multiple academic performance metrics for children over several years and measured them against proficiency guidelines or compared them to national averages. Unlike the Tennessee study, this evaluation finds long-lasting positive effects.
Latino children who attended publicly funded preschool in Miami, particularly those who attended public school-based programs, entered kindergarten with above average pre-academic skills, like knowing their letters and numbers. They also had above average social skill and English language skills. Moreover, nine in 10 Latino children who had attended one of Miami’s publicly funded preschool programs passed Florida’s 3rd grade standardized reading test with a score of two or higher.
A two on Florida’s scale is enough to be passed to the next grade, though it is below the score of three considered to represent on-grade-level performance. Still, it’s better than the overall performance of Latino 3rd graders in Miami-Dade in the same time period, 81 percent of whom passed the state reading test by the same criteria, with 70 percent scoring a three or higher. The study did not look at what portion of public preschool children scored a three or higher on the test.
Also, while the study does not dwell on the fact that public school preschool seemed to better prepare children for kindergarten and more clearly correlate with 3rd-grade reading scores, it does note that non-public school-based programs “were, on average, of mediocre quality ... and fewer than 10 percent were accredited. These centers had approximately 16 children per teacher and, on average, children received care there for seven to eight hours a day.” Public school programs were half-day with no more than 10 students per teacher.
Like all studies, this one comes with a set of caveats. It does not attempt, for example, to compare the students it tracks with ones who attended Head Start or received care at home, for example. It is observational rather than experimental. Still, it is an interesting piece of the ever-evolving preschool research puzzle.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.