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National Center for Education Research

Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness: Report from the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Initiative

NCER 2008-2009
July 2008

Executive Summary

A variety of preschool curricula is available and in widespread use, however, there is a lack of evidence from rigorous evaluations regarding the effects of these curricula on children’s school readiness. The lack of such information is important as early childhood center-based programs have been a major, sometimes the sole, component of a number of federal and state efforts to improve young at-risk children’s school readiness (e.g., Head Start, Even Start, public pre-kindergarten). In 2005, nearly half (47%) of all 3- to 5-year-old children from low-income families were enrolled in either part-day or full-day early childhood programs (U.S. Department of Education 2006).

In 2002, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) began the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research (PCER) initiative to conduct rigorous efficacy evaluations of available preschool curricula. Twelve research teams implemented one or two curricula in preschool settings serving predominantly low-income children under an experimental design. For each team, preschools or classrooms were randomly assigned to the intervention curricula or control curricula and the children were followed from pre-kindergarten through kindergarten. IES contracted with RTI International (RTI) and Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) to evaluate the impact of each of the 14 curricula implemented using a common set of measures with the cohort of children beginning preschool in the summer-fall of 2003.

This report provides the individual results for each curriculum from the evaluations by RTI and MPR. Chapter 1 describes the PCER initiative and details the common elements of the evaluations including the experimental design, implementation, analysis, results, and findings. Chapters 2-13, respectively, provide greater detail on the individual evaluations of the curricula implemented by each research team including information on the curricula, the demographics of the site-specific samples, assignment, fidelity of implementation, and results. Appendix A presents results from a secondary analysis of the data. Appendix B provides greater detail regarding the data analyses conducted. Appendixes C and D provide additional information regarding the outcome measures.