The effects of enrolling in oversubscribed prekindergarten programs through third grade

September 2020
Christina Weiland, Rebecca Unterman, Anna Shapiro, Sara Staszak, Shana Rochester, Eleanor Martin

This study leverages naturally occurring lotteries for oversubscribed Boston Public Schools prekindergarten program sites between 2007 and 2011, for 3,182 children (M = 4.5 years old) to estimate the impacts of winning a first choice lottery and enrolling in Boston prekindergarten versus losing a first choice lottery and not enrolling on children’s enrollment and persistence in district schools, grade retention, special education placement, and third-grade test scores. There are large effects on enrollment and persistence, but no effects on other examined outcomes for this subsample. Importantly, children who competed for oversubscribed seats were not representative of all appliers and almost all control-group children attended center-based preschool. Findings contribute to the larger evidence base and raise important considerations for future prekindergarten lottery-based studies.

This study is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences RFA R305A140059. Some of Anna Shapiro’s time was also supported by Institute of Education Sciences RFA R305B150012. Thanks to the Boston Public Schools (BPS), Jason Sachs, Brian Gold, the BPS Department of Early Childhood coaches and staff, the BPS Office of Data and Accountability (particularly Nicole Wagner, Erin Cooley, Barry Kaufman, and Peter Sloan), Kamal Chavda, Carrie Conaway and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Abt Associates, and the Wellesley Centers for Women. Special thanks also to Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Howard Bloom, Richard Murnane, David Deming, Catherine Snow, Caroline Ebanks, Parag Pathak, Gina Biancarosa, and the three anonymous Child Development reviewers.