When do the Literacy Skills of Preschool Attenders and Non-Attenders Converge? Evidence from Boston

October 2019
Christina Weiland, Anna Shapiro, Rebecca Unterman

Attending preschool improves children’s kindergarten readiness, but the cognitive outcomes of preschool attenders and non-attenders tend to converge partially or fully in elementary school. In older programs, most of the non-attender “catch up” occurs in kindergarten (Li et al., 2016), but evidence from today’s programs is relatively sparse. Using data on approximately 5,000 Boston Public School prekindergarten appliers and a quasiexperimental approach, we examine convergence patterns in the K-3 literacy outcomes of prekindergarten attenders and non-attenders. Consistent with the previous literature, we find that most of the convergence in K-3 literacy outcomes occurs 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. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Christina Weiland, School of Education, 610 E. University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104; email: weilandc@umich.edu Thanks to the Boston Public Schools, 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, 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.