The kindergarten hotspot: Literacy skill convergence between Boston Prekindergarten enrollees and non-enrollees

January 2021
Christina Weiland, Rebecca Unterman, Anna Shapiro

Preschool improves children’s kindergarten readiness, but the cognitive outcomes of preschool enrollees and nonenrollees tend to converge partially or fully in elementary school. In older programs, most of this convergence occurs in kindergarten (Li et al., 2016), but evidence from today’s programs is sparse. Using data on 4,971 children who applied to the Boston Public School Prekindergarten program and a quasi-experimental approach, we examine convergence in kindergarten through third grade (K-3) literacy outcomes of prekindergarten enrollees and nonenrollees. Consistent with previous literature, most of the convergence in K-3 literacy outcomes occurred in kindergarten. Our findings suggest that detailed investigations into the kindergarten teaching and learning context may be particularly important for solving the widely noted preschool convergence pattern.

This study is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences RFA R305A140059 and 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 Lam, Erin Cooley, Barry Kaufman, and Peter Sloan), Kamal Chavda, and the Wellesley Centers for Women. Special thanks also to Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Howard Bloom, Richard Murnane, David Deming, Catherine Snow, Caroline Ebanks, Gina Biancarosa, Sarah Kabay, Eleanor Martin, Shana Rochester, and Sara Staszak.