Is New York City’s Pre-K for All program boosting student success?

Evaluating an innovative pre-K program in New York City


The New York City Department of Education (DOE) launched Pre-K for All in 2014, an initiative providing free, full-day prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds. The number of enrollees increased from 53,000 in 2014 to about 70,000 in 2015.

The New York City Center for Economic Opportunity asked Westat to help evaluate the initiative’s implementation and expansion. 


Using surveys, focus groups, or interviews, the evaluation collected information from the children, parents, teachers, principals, site directors, and staff from the DOE and other agencies that were involved with the initiative.

The evaluation assessed

  • Families’ perceptions of the program
  • Families’ engagement in the program and their communication with staff
  • Quality of the curriculum and instruction
  • Data for programmatic and instructional purposes
  • Supports, such as coaching and professional development, offered to the staff
  • Students’ thinking and academic skills

Data collected from a survey of 1,100+ children in the program produced a snapshot of student learning in 4 key areas associated with kindergarten readiness. A follow-up (Year 2) evaluation will recommend how the DOE can support its pre-K programs and improve student learning.

The Year 2 evaluation will also look at how programs can better support students of different backgrounds and needs, including students with special needs, students whose home language isn’t English, and students living in poverty.


The DOE is using the results of the evaluation to improve implementation of the Pre-K for All program and the services provided to pre-K children and their families.

The evaluation found

  • The Pre-K for All program helped students’ thinking and academic skills, regardless of their income levels, ethnicity, or the language they speak at home.
  • Parents overwhelmingly rated the quality of their child’s pre-K program as “good” or “excellent” and said it improved their child’s learning and behavior a lot.
  • Staff at the Pre-K for All sites reported using a variety of family engagement and communication practices and a wide variety of data to guide their instruction and programmatic decisions. They also reported being satisfied with much of the program and the support they received from the DOE.


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