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Unpacking universal preK in Vermont: Patterns of program enrollment

Region:
Northeast & Islands
Abstract:

Description: In 2014, the state of Vermont passed Act 166, providing state-funded, universal access to prekindergarten (preK) for 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, and preK 5-year-olds through a mixed-delivery system of public and private providers at no cost to families. Full implementation began during the 2016/17 school year.

This legislation provides families with multiple options for enrolling their children in universal preK, including these four program types:

  1. public school preK in child's school supervisory union
  2. public school preK in another supervisory union
  3. private child care center
  4. family child care home
Additionally, to qualify to participate in the state-funded universal preK initiative, programs must have a rating of at least 3 out of 5 stars on the state's quality rating and improvement system, also known as the STep Ahead Recognition System, or STARS.

This diversity of program types poses important questions about whether child and geographic characteristics are associated with program enrollment patterns across the state. Through its partnership with Vermont, REL Northeast & Islands will conduct an initial study using data from the first year of implementation of universal preK (2016/17) to understand the characteristics of children enrolled in different preK programs (type and quality rating), the geographic characteristics of the preK programs, and the factors related to enrollment in particular program options (both type and quality rating). Since families may enroll their children in any qualified preK program of their choice, this analysis of enrollment patterns will provide important information about how universal preK is being implemented in Vermont that will inform future changes and implementation.

Research Questions:
  1. What are the characteristics of children enrolled in:
    • each of the four program types (public school preK in child's school supervisory union, public school preK in another supervisory union, private child care center, family child care home) available through Vermont's universal prekindergarten (preK) program? and;
    • prequalified Vermont universal preK programs with a STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS) quality rating level of 3, 4, or 5 stars?
  2. What are the geographic characteristics of preK programs in which children are enrolled, including:
    • What is the average distance between a child's residence and the program in which s/he is enrolled and between the program in which they are enrolled and the nearest employment center? and;
    • How are programs geographically distributed by supervisory union?
  3. Which child characteristics (that is, demographic and geographic) are associated with the likelihood that a child is enrolled in one of the four program types?
  4. Which child characteristics (that is, demographic and geographic) are associated with the likelihood that a child is enrolled in a universal preK program with a STARS quality rating score of 3, 4, or 5 stars?

Study Design: First, REL Northeast & Islands will conduct a series of descriptive analyses to examine the characteristics of children enrolled in Vermont's preK programs, and the geographic characteristics of the preK programs. Next, REL Northeast & Islands will use multinomial and ordinal logistic regression models to examine the association between child characteristics (both demographic and geographic) and the preK program in which s/he is enrolled.

Projected Release Date: Fall 2019

Partnership or Research Alliance: Vermont Universal PreK Research Partnership

Related Products: Making Connections report
Stated Briefly report

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:
Clare W. Irwin, Ph.D., Education Development Center
Contact: