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Friday, October 20, 2017

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, OCTOBER 20, 2017

GEORGIA'S PRE- K PROGRAM PART II

Recently, this column noted Georgia's highly successful Pre- K Program, a public- private program funded by the Georgia Lottery. Georgia has one of the few state- funded public Pre- K programs and the state appropriation of $364.8 million in Lottery proceeds funds about 84,000 Pre- K slots. In 2011, the legislature funded an evaluation study of the Pre- K program.

The study was conducted by the FPG Child Development Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2011- 2013. The evaluation study included observations of classroom quality in a random study of 100 Pre- K classrooms with 509 randomly selected children participating.

Part of the study was a longitudinal study of the progress of children as they moved through Pre- K, kindergarten and primary school. This column will also examine the results of the study through year- three, or first grade.

WHAT THE STUDY FOUND

The first study, conducted in 2011-2012 included observations of classroom activity in a random sample of 100 of Georgia's Pre-K classrooms and provided assessments of the language, literacy, math, general knowledge and behavioral skills of a sample of 509 children over the year.

The primary evaluation questions included:

--What are the outcomes for children attending Georgia's Pre-K Program?

--What factors predict better outcomes for children?

--What is the quality of Georgia's Pre-K classrooms?

KEY FINDINGS

Children exhibited significant growth during their Pre-K year across all fields of learning, including language and literacy skills, math skills, general knowledge and behavioral skills. The sample of 509 children made positive gains from the beginning to the end of the Pre-K program year on all of the assessment measures, including the areas of language and literacy, math, general knowledge and behavioral skills. Children's growth in many areas indicated that they progressed at a greater rate during the time they participated in Georgia's Pre-K Program than would be expected for normal developmental growth. Children who were Spanish-speaking, dual language learners showed growth in both English and Spanish, with greater growth in English.

Factors which predicted greater growth in skills included individual level of English proficiency, having a higher proportion of non- English-speaking children in the classroom and attending a
Pre-K program in a local school system.

The global quality of classroom practices was in the medium quality range as measured by the ECERS-R (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised). In teacher-child interactions, classroom practices were stronger in emotional support and classroom organization than instructional support. In general, program, teacher and classroom factors that were examined did not predict differences in the quality of classroom practices.

STUDY: FACTORS PREDICTING BETTER LEARNING

Examination of factors predicting better outcomes revealed that there are significant effects of children's English language proficiency level, with greater gains based on basic skills for children from lower- income families. Children at lower levels of English proficiency made greater gains in most measures of language, literacy, math and behavior.

There were no effects for teacher certification or class size in Pre- K. Classroom organization skills made greater gains in both calculation and vocabulary skills than peers who attended less well- organized classrooms.

The quality of teacher- child instructional interactions was measured by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), and showed scores in the middle to high range or the Emotional Support and Classroom Organization category. They scored in the low to middle range for Emotional Support. There were slight decreases over time with higher comparative scores in Pre- K than kindergarten and first grade classrooms. The study suggested that although there may be continuity in the teaching and learning opportunities for children in Pre- K and kindergarten, these same levels of improvement may not be sustainable in first grade.

THE LONGITUDINAL STUDY

The longitudinal study, through year- three, studied first grade with a sample of over 1000 children. The outcomes, measured longitudinally, showed "significant growth" in most areas of learning, including language, literacy, math and behavior skills. Generally, children showed lower growth rates in first grade than in Pre- K and kindergarten with scores remaining constant. No change demonstrates growth at the expected rate for typical developmental growth. Reading and math skills were constant demonstrating growth at the expected rate, while functions focused on aspects of working memory did show improvement.

A FINAL QUOTE FROM THE LONGITUDINAL STUDY

"Overall, however, the findings suggest children who attended Georgia's Pre- K Program continue to exhibit positive outcomes through the end of first grade, growing at expected or greater than expected rates across all domains of language, math, executive function and behavior skills."

To read the entire series of reports, go to http://fpg.unc.edu/projects/georgia-pre-kindergarten-evaluation

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