TN study: Pre-K benefits fade by third-grade

Researchers at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Research Institute found that gains from participation in the Tennessee Voluntary Prekindergarten (TN-VPK) program did not last.

In A Randomized Control Trial of a Statewide Voluntary Prekindergarten Program on Children’s Skills and Behaviors through Third Grade, researchers examined academic and behavioral measures for 1,076 low-income children.  Of that total, 773 were randomly assigned to attend TN?VPK classrooms and 303 children were not.  So what happened?

  • At the end of pre?k, the TN?VPK children had significantly higher achievement scores on all six of the subtests, with the largest effects on the two literacy outcome.
  • Pre?k effects were not differentially affected by gender, ethnicity, or age of enrollment.
  • In second grade, the groups began to diverge with the TN?VPK children scoring lower than the control children on most of the measures.
  • First grade teachers rated the TN?VPK children as less well prepared for school, having poorer work skills in the classrooms, and feeling more negative about school.  The second and third grade teachers rated the behaviors and feelings of children in the two groups as the same; there was a marginally significant effect for positive peer relations favoring the TN?VPK children by third grade teachers.

Preschool is valuable for some children, but it is not the panacea that many believe it to be.

Terry Stoops / Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies

Terry Stoops is the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the progra...

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