A New Approach to Sustaining Pre-K Impacts

April 2022
Meghan McCormick, Rebecca Unterman, Mijana Pralica, Christina Weiland, Amanda Weissman, Joann Hsueh

Support for expanding access to high-quality prekindergarten (pre-K) is at an all time high. Increased investments in early care and education have been spurred in part by rigorous evidence finding that four-year-old students who attend pre-K score higher on assessments of language, literacy, math, and executive functioning skills than children who do not attend pre-K.2 Yet these initial positive impacts on cognitive and academic skills tend to diminish quickly after pre-K ends and disappear during kindergarten or first grade. Despite a smaller body of evidence finding positive impacts of pre-K into adulthood, this phenomenon has been described both as fadeout, when impacts of pre-K programs lessen over time, and as convergence, when the children who did not attend pre-K catch up to their peers quickly in elementary school. These findings, coupled with recent results finding that students enrolled in a state pre-K program actually had slightly worse outcomes in sixth grade than students in a comparison group, have turned attention to the best ways to sustain pre-K gains.


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