Independent Research Shows High Satisfaction with Pre-K For All Expansion

  • Posted: Tue Sep 27, 2016 Updated: Fri Apr 20, 2018

Pre-K for All students across all income levels, race, and home language status outpaced growth among four-year-olds nationally

NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today released the full set of reports from the first year of a two-year independent research study of New York City’s Pre-K for All initiative. The Year 1 evaluation, which studied the program throughout the first year of the expansion in the 2014-15 school year found high satisfaction with Pre-K for All, which offered a free, full-day, high-quality pre-K seat for every 4-year-old for the first time in 2015-16. Families expressed high satisfaction with the quality of their child’s pre-K education, and their children’s developmental and behavioral progress. In the Year 1 evaluation, sites reported a commitment to strong family engagement practices, high levels of satisfaction with professional development for instructors provided by the DOE, substantial support for providers throughout the program’s rollout and expansion, and immediate financial and quality-of-life benefits to pre-K families. 

Prior to the start of Pre-K for All, 19,287 four-year-olds were enrolled in full-day pre-K in New York City; in the 2015-16 school year, enrollment was 68,647. As of the first day of the 2016-17 school year, over 70,400 children were registered for free, full-day, high quality pre-K. This extra year of learning is a critical part of this administration’s commitment to equity and excellence for all students, and a way to address disparities in educational opportunity for our city’s youngest learners. 

“From the beginning of the Pre-K for All expansion, our focus has been ensuring every single classroom in every single neighborhood was high-quality,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “We’ve built a pre-K system that prioritizes quality, age-appropriate learning, and these evaluations show that students, families and instructors are reaping the benefits. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made and I look forward to seeing Pre-K for All grow in the years to come and serve every four-year-old across New York City, as part of a critical continuum of equity and excellence for all.” 

Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives said, “Pre-K for All was created to provide all children an early opportunity to get on the right track and stay on the right track. These preliminary findings reinforce the high expectations that we had for this program at the onset. From reported gains in academic and behavioral functioning to drastically reducing childcare costs for families, I am proud that this program is helping to positively steer the next generation of New Yorkers toward lifelong success.” 

“There is no question that a high-quality pre-K education program lays a critical foundation for future academic success,” said Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack. “Through Pre-K for All, tens of thousands of children across New York City will now start kindergarten with stronger language and social-emotional skills, and be will accustomed to learning in a classroom and working with their peers. We will continue to evaluate programs and provide targeted support to deliver the highest quality pre-K to all four-year-olds across the City.” 

“The launch of Pre-K for All has been a truly historic undertaking, and the City has been committed from the start to use data rigorously to drive quality,” said Matt Klein, Executive Director of the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity. “The Center for Economic Opportunity is proud to support the Department of Education's data and research efforts. These studies provide valuable lessons about delivering pre-K at universal scale, helping to shape our efforts here in New York City and offering guidance to educators and policymakers nationwide who are working to expand critical early education services.” 

“The best systems nationally are using data to inform quality improvements – and that is exactly what NYC leaders in early childhood have taken on as a central pillar of their approach to expanding opportunities for pre-K,” said Pamela A. Morris, Professor of Applied Psychology Vice Dean for Research and Faculty Affairs at New York University. “That approach is the best bet to providing the high-quality services that meet the needs of young children in this City.” 

This two-part research study was conducted by Westat, Metis Associates and Branch Associates on behalf of the DOE and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), with support from New York University’s Institute for Human Development and Social Change. The DOE and CEO launched this study to inform long-term planning for building a sustainable pre-K system, while also identifying ways in which Pre-K for All can increase support for providers and better meet the needs of New York City’s children and families in the near future. 

The Year 1 evaluation was based on surveys, focus groups, interviews and assessment data from a variety of stakeholders including parents, teachers, principals, site leaders, and staff from the DOE and other City Agencies. In total, approximately 200 pre-K programs were surveyed with responses from 750 pre-K educators and 1,100 families. Approximately 1,150 pre-K students were studied across 75 pre-K programs, and over 40 interviews were conducted with key stakeholders from City Agencies. The evaluation looked at seven areas of Pre-K for All’s implementation, which were captured in separate reports. The reports are: 

• Family perceptions of the program 
• Family engagement and communication 
• Curriculum and instruction 
• Using data for programmatic and instructional purposes 
• Expansion rollout 
• Program supports 
• Children’s executive functioning and academic skills 

Report on Family Perceptions 
The report showed 92 percent of families surveyed were pleased with their child’s pre-K experience and with the quality of their education and 83 percent believed Pre-K for All significantly improved their child’s behavior. Moreover, more than half of all families surveyed also reported that Pre-K for All helped drastically reduce their childcare costs, while also allowing caregivers to work more hours and earn a higher income. 

Report on Family Engagement and Communication 
The report found that the vast majority of surveyed Pre-K for All site leaders reported a strong commitment to family engagement initiatives, including in-person parent-instructor meetings, providing updates on students’ achievements, and incorporating family input and feedback into programmatic decisions. Additionally, 95 percent of all sites surveyed reported facilitating an orientation for families and students and offering at least one family workshop during the year, and 90 percent reported providing families with written materials about extended learning activities at least once a month. 

Report on Curriculum and Instruction 
The evaluation’s findings indicate that surveyed Pre-K for All sites reported using curricula that would support student learning in all areas of development and lay a foundation for continued success in the early grades. 

Report on Use of Data for Programmatic and Instructional Purposes 
Pre-K for All sites reported using a wide range of data to inform programmatic decisions and classroom-level teaching practices, with nearly 90 percent of sites reporting they used targeted data to engage families on their child’s development and specific needs. 

Report on Pre-K for All Expansion Rollout 
The majority of providers that applied to offer full-day pre-K reported that the application process was clear, easy to navigate, and well supported. In general, sites knew how to comply with DOE and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) expectations and requirements for health and safety. Additionally, many Pre-K for All sites reported that, on average, lead teachers had five years of experience in a pre-K educational setting and almost 13 years across educational settings. 

Report on Program Supports 
The evaluation showed that 96 percent of surveyed site leaders reported that they or their staff participated in DOE professional development offerings, and more than 80 percent of site leaders and instructional staff found each of these opportunities to be helpful. In particular, site leaders and instructional staff found the DOE’s coaches, group trainings, and in-class support to be most helpful. 

Report on Executive Functioning and Academic Skills 
Over the course of a five-and-a-half-month testing window, children attending Pre-K for All made gains across all academic skills, including Letter Recognition, Pre-writing, Early Math and Executive Function. By the end of the testing window, Pre-K for All students across all income levels, race, and home language status outpaced the growth of four-year-olds nationally. 

The Year 1 evaluation is available online. 

The research evaluation in the first year of Pre-K for All was structured to inform ongoing improvement that would incorporate feedback from key stakeholders. The second year’s evaluation is ongoing and continues the DOE’s work to continuously improve program quality, specifically through differentiated professional development and coaching. The Year 2 evaluation explores promising practices for students with varying backgrounds and needs, including students living in poverty, students with special needs, and students whose home language is a language other than English. The Year 2 evaluation will focus on how the DOE’s differentiated professional development and coaching model can best meet the needs of pre-K programs, so that every four-year-old across New York City has access to a high-quality pre-K classroom. 
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