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How effective is San Antonio’s full-day preschool program?

Evaluating San Antonio’s Pre-K 4 SA program

Challenge

Research shows that attending preschool can shrink by one-half the achievement gap between low- and high-income students. San Antonio is one of a handful of U.S. cities investing in preschool programming for underserved children. Its Pre-K 4 SA program began providing full-day preschool for 4-year-olds in 2013; by the 2016-2017 school year, more than 2,000 children were enrolled.

The City of San Antonio requested Westat’s assistance in evaluating the program’s effectiveness.

Solution

During 2016-2017, we gathered data on the program by:

  • Collecting information on nearly 500 randomly selected children’s executive function skills
  • Observing 100 classrooms and teachers, using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) that looks at the quality of teacher-child interactions in the classroom
  • Reviewing administrative data on attending children, including attendance and Teaching Strategies GOLD outcome data

Future evaluations will continue to focus on teachers’ reports of the children’s progress and our observations of the children in the classroom, including their interactions with their teachers.

Results

In the beginning of the school year, Pre-K 4 SA children were below the norm in cognitive, literacy, language, physical, and social-emotional skills compared to a nationally representative sample of children.

By the end of the year:

  • Students surpassed the norm in cognitive, literacy, and mathematics skills
  • The program eliminated the initial gap in the remaining 3 outcomes: language, physical, and social-emotional

Instructional support improved the most within the 3 CLASS quality domains since the program began: emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional.

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