A new study found big gains in cognitive skills for students enrolled in Oklahoma's universal preschool.
The gains by 4-year-olds enrolled in the school-based prekindergarten program were as much as nine months in pre-reading skills, seven months in pre-writing skills and five months in pre-math skills, relative to their peers, researchers at Georgetown University found. That compares to the federal Head Start program, in which students had gains of six months in pre-reading skills, three months in pre-writing skills, and five months in pre-math schools, relative to their peers.
“The children in Tulsa’s pre-K and Head Start programs experienced substantial gains in pre-reading, pre-writing and pre-math skills above and beyond those that otherwise occur through aging,” said William T. Gormley Jr., lead author of the study, university professor and co-director of the Center for Research on Children in the U.S. at Georgetown University. “We found that negative effects of family and environmental risk factors can be lessened by a strong preschool program.”
Researchers also found that pre-K participation and Head Start participation were more powerful predictors of certain test outcomes than gender, free lunch eligibility, a mother’s education or whether the biological father lives at home.
Researchers believe the findings could influence policy and funding decisions across the country as many states consider expanding or restructuring their preschool programs.