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Participation in State-Funded Prekindergarten in Oklahoma

Region:
Southwest
Description:

Oklahoma offers state-funded prekindergarten (preK) to all 4-year-old children. The Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest Early Childhood Education Research Partnership members in Oklahoma requested more comprehensive evidence on disparities in student participation in state-funded preK by student characteristics and geographic locale. Such disparities in participation can indicate challenges in access to or use of the program. Using administrative records from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, REL Southwest calculated the percentages of first-time public school kindergarten students who participated in Oklahoma's state-funded preK program in the prior year for five cohorts (2014/15 through 2018/19). In addition to describing unadjusted participation rates, the study also used multivariate statistical models to estimate relationships between student characteristics, the local availability of preK options (measured as estimated travel time), and students' participation in state-funded preK. Across the five years examined, 74 percent of public school kindergarten students had attended state-funded preK in the prior year. Participation varied across the state, and a substantially greater percentage of students in rural districts participated than students in nonrural (that is, urban or suburban) districts. In addition, the study identified groups of students by student characteristics that participated less often, including students eligible for free lunch, Black/African American students, and Pacific Islander students. The study also examined relationships between participation and geographic measures of access to early learning and care. Students who lived further from a state-funded preK site were less likely to participate, and students who lived further from a Head Start Center were more likely to participate in state-funded preK. The differences in student participation across geographic areas and student characteristics indicate an opportunity for policies and strategies to promote greater awareness of, and enrollment in, state-funded preK or other early learning and care opportunities.

Publication Type:
Descriptive Study
Online Availability:
Publication Date:
December 2020