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IES Grant

Title: Exploring the Role of Access to School-based Pre-kindergarten: Enrollment and Academic Outcomes under Decentralized and Centralized Enrollment Policies
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Ehrlich, Stacy Awardee: National Opinion Research Center (NORC)
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (09/01/2018 - 08/31/2020) Award Amount: $599,913
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A180510

Previous Award Number: R305A180441
Previous Institution: University of Chicago

Co-Principal Investigator: Connors, Maia; Stein, Amanda

Purpose: The research team will explore how access to school-based pre-K is related to enrollment and academic outcomes under decentralized and centralized enrollment policy contexts. There has been substantial expansion of school-based pre-K across the country in recent years, but there is little evidence on the extent to which the students who are most likely to benefit from pre-K actually enroll in school-based programs, and thus whether these expansion efforts are related to the reduction of early achievement gaps. As districts across the country increasingly shift to centralized pre-K enrollment systems, the policies they implement may constrain or facilitate pre-K enrollment for families from different backgrounds, and living in different neighborhoods. Researchers will use secondary data to explore associations between pre-K access, patterns of school-based pre-K enrollment, and student academic outcomes. Findings will inform policy by exploring a key lever for increasing enrollment among at-risk, traditionally-underserved students, and will lay a foundation for future efficacy studies of pre-K enrollment policies and practices.

Project Activities: Researchers will use secondary data to examine pre-K enrollment patterns, explore if and how pre-K access is related to school-based pre-K enrollment, assess associations between access and enrollment in a centralized versus decentralized enrollment system, and explore how differences in pre-K access are associated with pre-K and third grade academic outcomes. They will also prepare policy reports and disseminate study findings to a wide range of stakeholders. The research team will identify malleable policies that support student learning and achievement.

Products: The research team will produce preliminary evidence regarding the role of access in patterns of pre-K enrollment and associations with student academic outcomes that provides (1) an important foundation on which to design future efficacy studies of specific pre-K enrollment practices and policies; and (2) critical information to policymakers and district leaders across the U.S. who are tasked with designing these policies and systems. Dissemination products will include brief reports for policymakers, briefings with stakeholders and presentations at research conferences, and peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in the nationís third largest district, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), which includes 350 school-based pre-K programs.

Sample: This study sample includes six cohorts of students enrolled in CPS kindergarten from 2011-12 to 2016-17. Cohorts consist of about 30,000 racially and ethnically diverse students. A majority of students are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds and approximately 25 percent are English learners.

Malleable Factors: The malleable factors for this project are the accessibility of application centers and school-based pre-K sites.

Research Design and Methods: In this two-year project, researchers will use secondary data to explore patterns of school-based pre-K enrollment across student subgroups. They will examine how accessibility of application centers and school-based pre-K sites is related to pre-K enrollment and academic outcomes, and whether these relationships differ under a centralized (district oversight of the pre-K application and enrollment process) versus decentralized (the pre-K application and enrollment process occurs at the school or pre-k program level) district policy context. In Year 1, the research team will prepare datasets and conduct analyses to address research questions focused on pre-K enrollment and accessibility, and produce a policy report focused on pre-k enrollment, accessibility, and centralized enrollment systems. In Year 2, they will work on research questions focused on pre-K accessibility, enrollment, and academic outcomes, and produce a second policy report with findings about access to school-based pre-K and academic outcomes. The research team will present findings to local stakeholders and at national research conferences, and write journal articles.

Control Condition: Due to the exploratory nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: The key predictors in this study are access (defined by proximity to a studentís home) to pre-K application centers and school-based pre-K sites. Key outcomes include pre-K enrollment in schools, high quality schools, and schools that offer full-day; and pre-K and third-grade academic outcomes (attendance, kindergarten readiness, reading and math test scores on the Northwest Educational Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress, grades, mobility, and disciplinary infractions). Other measures include student and neighborhood characteristics, and potential mediators of academic outcomes (e.g., school quality and participation in elementary school choice).

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use descriptive statistics to examine patterns of school-based pre-K enrollment and the distribution of pre-K application centers and school-based pre-K sites. They will conduct multilevel logistic and linear regressions to explore how access is related to school-based pre-K enrollment and academic outcomes in pre-K and third grade, and how these associations vary by student and neighborhood characteristics and under different policy contexts. Finally, the research team will use structural equation models to explore the extent to which these relationships are mediated by enrollment patterns and school quality experiences.