Findings on Boston Prekindergarten Through Early Elementary School

October 2019
Christina Weiland, Anna Shapiro, Rebecca Unterman, Hirokazu Yoshikawa

This brief summarizes findings from the Sustaining the Boost project, an Institute of Education Sciences-funded study of the Boston Public Schools prekindergarten program. We extended what is known about the program in four different recent complementary studies.

Key findings

Among the four studies, one is a rigorous impact evaluation of the effects of BPS’s prekindergarten program on a sample of children whose parents applied to oversubscribed schools and were therefore entered into a lottery.

  1. For our lottery sample, there were no effects of enrolling in Boston prekindergarten on early elementary outcomes like retention, special education placement, or third grade test scores. There was a large positive effect, however, on persistence in the public schools.
  2. Our lottery sample was more advantaged than other applicants to the program. We find that lottery sample findings may not generalize to all applicants.
  3. The prekindergarten boost lasted in academically stronger schools.
  4. There is a group of particularly disadvantaged children in Boston whose families do not apply to Boston prekindergarten, nor enroll them in any other prekindergarten program. Targeted recruitment strategies may help move these children into prekindergarten settings.