Volume 5, No. 6
P-3: New Signs of Success
The focus on coordinated PreK-to-grade 3 programs received a significant boost this month with release of a long-term study in Chicago documenting the positive effects of such initiatives on participants all the way into adulthood.
The study focused on the Chicago Child-Parent Centers, which provided early childhood education plus additional supports that continued through elementary school. The new research by Arthur Reynolds and Judy Temple found solid gains among more than 1,400 participating students, most of them low-income and African American, through age 28.
Reynolds credited the gains in part to "a chain of positive influences" that began with a focus on school readiness and parent involvement in the early years. This foundation "leads to better school performance, enrollment in higher quality schools and, ultimately, to higher educational attainment and socioeconomic status," he said.
Among key findings, the study found that, compared with a control group, those in the Child-Parent Centers had a 9 percent higher rate of high school completion, including a 19 percent higher rate among males. In addition:
- 20 percent more achieved moderate or high levels of socioeconomic status;
- 28 percent fewer individuals abused drugs and alcohol;
- 22 percent fewer had a felony arrest; and
- 28 percent fewer had been incarcerated.
In addition, those who attended the center continuously from pre-k to grade 3 had even greater gains, as they were 55 percent more likely to complete high school on time and 36 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
Reynolds, co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative, said results point to a need for schools to devote a larger share of Title I funds to preschool. While only 3 percent of Title I dollars go toward early years programs, he said, "Preschool programs are one of the most cost-effective of all social programs."
The research comes as more educators are emphasizing the importance of PreK-to-grade 3, or "P-3" programs, to improve achievement and engagement at low-income schools. Such programs provide services for children from ages 3 to 8 as well as their teachers. The P-3 effort has visibility in North Carolina, where the FPG Child Development Center at the University of North Carolina is promoting FirstSchool P-3 partnerships that combine best practices in early childhood, elementary and special education.
As FPG Senior Scientist Sharon Ritchie told Pre-K Primer recently, the goal is to bridge traditional gaps between pre-k and elementary school. "There’s an artificial divide at ages 4 and 5 that does not make sense if we want a seamless movement through school," Ritchie says. With a $4-million W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, the FirstSchool concept is the focus of a pilot program at schools in North Carolina and another four schools in Michigan.
P-3 also should be a key strategy for states and schools that want to raise achievement among English Language Learners, says Dale Russakoff in a new report for the Foundation for Child Development.
"With a majority of ELLs in elementary grades – and 40 percent of them ages three to eight – improvements in early learning promise a large payoff as these students move through the grades," he said. This statistic alone can justify a P-3 focus with increased resources on instruction, assessment and professional development, he added.
P-3 also is gaining more attention at the federal level. The Obama administration recently announced a new phase of Race to the Top funding that focuses specifically on early learning. The government is offering $500 million in Early Learning Challenge grants for bold strategies to improve programs for young children.
In awarding these funds, however, the government should reward states that build partnerships between early learning and K-3 and align standards across the two areas, seven early childhood experts say.
"We wholeheartedly agree that states’ birth-to-five systems must become better organized and of higher quality," said a statement from experts including UNC’s Ritchie and Thomas Schultz, program director at the Council of Chief State School Officers. Yet states must be "intentional and strategic" to align early childhood and K-3 services.
"Doing so ensures that the gains made in early learning settings can be better sustained and achievement gaps can be closed early," they said in a letter to senior administration officials. The federal government also should reward states that include school board members, K-3 teachers, principals, superintendents and state early childhood advisory councils, they said.
The government will release applications for the early learning grant this summer, with awards expected by the end of 2011.
Seattle-Area School Shows P-3 Gains
A public/private partnership is helping a Seattle-area school offer an effective PreK-through-grade 3 program.
Students in the South Shore School in Seattle are making greater progress than their peers who lack access to a comprehensive P-3 program, research shows. By the time they took state assessments in grades 3 and 4, students at the school showed significant gains.
"South Shore third and fourth grade students are more likely to meet [state] benchmarks in both reading and math, and they have higher standardized test scores," says a comprehensive evaluation of the effort from research firm ECONorthwest.
The effects also are evident across all ethnic groups and are strongest among students who began attending the school in pre-k or kindergarten, the evaluation noted. In addition, South Shore outperformed similar schools in its region.
The predominantly African American school showed some of the greatest gains at the fourth grade level.
African American students at the school were 16 percentage points more likely to meet the state math benchmark than African-American students at other schools, the study said.
South Shore is a public/private partnership between Seattle Public Schools and The New School Foundation. It includes pre-k and kindergarten, small class sizes in the early grades and additional supports for students and faculty.
The school opened in 2002 with the New School Foundation providing supplemental funding to offer additional services.
Other activities include a wellness program that fosters whole-child development plus tutoring and other academic supports for struggling students.
New Training Underway For School Boards
For four years, the Center for Public Education (CPE) at the National School Boards Association has focused on pre-k and its importance for school board members. A grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts has supported reports, newsletters and a toolkit, while Pew seed grants to five state school board associations have boosted member awareness of the issue.
The effort is reaching a new audience in June as CPE and state experts are delivering high-quality pre-k information to state trainers of new and experienced school board members.
In late June, CPE Director Patte Barth and representatives from Kentucky and Kansas provided information, role-play activities and resources to trainers so they can help spread the word about pre-k.
"We think it can be an effective train-the-trainer model," said Tom Krebs, governmental relations specialist at the Kansas Association of School Boards and one of the presenters.
Kansas was one of the five states to receive Pew seed money to raise pre-k awareness among school board members and conduct outreach to other local, regional and statewide early childhood organizations.
Traditionally, most board member training focuses justifiably on superintendent/board relationships, organizational analysis and student achievement issues. Yet pre-k is an increasingly significant piece of the achievement effort.
"It’s a front-burner issue," Krebs said. "To have board trainers who are very knowledgeable about pre-k can be significant."
Kerri Schelling, director of board team development for the Kentucky School Boards Association, is the third member of the presentation team. Kentucky also received a seed grant through Pew to increase its pre-k activity.
That support has led to expanded partnerships, as the Kentucky School Boards Association has gained a seat on several state early childhood panels while raising awareness of the issue among its members.
In addition to providing information, the three presenters conducted role-play activities examining issues such as how schools can work with early childhood providers in the community to develop partnerships and minimize conflict.
For more information about the center’s pre-k offerings, visit the Web site at www.centerforpubliceducation.org/prekindergarten.
Around the Nation
District Seeks to Expand Pre-K
Growth needed to meet demand.
Pre-K Teachers Move to Older Kids
Houston cuts prompt switch.
Charlotte Saves Pre-K Services
State cuts less severe than thought.
Pre-K Primer is published by the Center for Public Education (www.centerforpubliceducation.org), an initiative of the National School Boards Association. The Center for Public Education is located at 1680 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. We gratefully acknowledge The Pew Charitable Trusts for its support of our work with pre-k. The views expressed here are those of the Center for Public Education and not necessarily those of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Pre-K Primer is written and edited by Chuck Dervarics, an education writer and researcher based in Alexandria, Virginia. Contact Pre-K Primer at firstname.lastname@example.org.