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Ongoing study affirms benefits of Georgia pre-k

Georgia’s pre-k program is showing positive impacts, according to an ongoing study tracking 1,169 children who participated in the program during the 2013-2014 school year.

The study by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill will follow this sampling of kids through third grade.

The newly released results are from the second year of the study, which was commissioned by Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. “These strong findings clearly indicate that Georgia’s signature early education program impacts child academic development and validates the important work accomplished by our teachers and assistant teachers every day,” said DECAL Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs in a statement. “On average, children’s skills in language/literacy, math, self-knowledge, and general knowledge gained during their Pre-K year were sustained through Kindergarten. These findings confirm that Pre-K provides the strong foundation needed for future learning.”

About 60 percent of Georgia’s 4-year-olds are served by the state's pre-k program. "I am not at all surprised by the findings of this recent study indicating that the benefits from Georgia’s highly ranked Pre-K program are maintained through kindergarten,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “The foundational skills Georgia’s youngest students acquire in Pre-K and Kindergarten put them on track to read at grade level by the third grade, a significant predictor of future academic success.”

One trouble spot was Spanish-speaking pre-k students. While those children showed gains, they began kindergarten behind their peers and ended the year still trailing. The study states: "Their skills tended to be more advanced in English than in Spanish, although the one area where scores were consistently lower in both languages was vocabulary. Given these findings, it may be worth considering further focus on instructional practices to support children’s vocabulary development both in English and their home language.

According to the results:

  • Children showed significant growth from pre-k through kindergarten on most measures across all domains of learning. Children who attended Georgia’s Pre-K made significant gains in the areas of language/literacy skills, math skills, self-knowledge, and social skills. Children’s growth on most of these measures, which were norm-referenced, indicated that they progressed at a greater rate than would be expected for normal developmental growth.
  • Children made greater gains in pre-k on some measures of early skills, while they made greater gains in kindergarten on measures of more advanced skills. Children made greater gains in pre-k than in kindergarten on some early literacy, math, and self-knowledge skills, as well as on social skills. Conversely, they made greater gains in kindergarten than in pre-k on more advanced literacy and math skills.
  • Children who were Spanish-speaking dual language learners showed growth on all skills in English and most skills in Spanish. From pre-k through kindergarten, children in the dual language learners subsample exhibited significant gains on all English measures of language/literacy skills, math skills, and self-knowledge. They also showed gains for most of the same measures in Spanish. However, for two measures of language/literacy skills (letter-word recognition, vocabulary), children showed significant decreases in Spanish scores from pre-k through kindergarten.
  • Children’s level of English language proficiency was the most consistent predictor of greater growth in skills. Children at lower levels of English proficiency showed greater growth in most language/literacy, math, and behavior skills than children at higher levels of proficiency. Although they made greater gains on the various outcome measures, they generally entered pre-k with lower skills and still had not caught up to their peers by the end of kindergarten.
  • There were some effects of pre-k program type on children’s growth in language and literacy skills through kindergarten. Children who attended public-school settings in pre-k exhibited greater growth on some language and literacy skills compared to children who attended private settings. Scores were lower at entry into pre-k for children who attended public-school settings, but generally were similar to those who attended private settings by the end of kindergarten.
  • Children who attended better quality pre-k and kindergarten classrooms had better learning outcomes in some areas. Children in pre-k and kindergarten classrooms with better quality classroom organization and instructional support showed a consistent pattern of greater growth in phonemic awareness.


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Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.