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Alaska Pre-Elementary Grant Study


Description: The Alaska Department of Education & Early Development (DEED) created the Pre-Elementary Grant (PEG) program in 2016 to fund the development and expansion of locally designed preschool options in communities across the state. In Alaska, participation in early education is lower than the national average and access to early education programs varies widely by geography, with many private options in urban communities, such as Anchorage, but fewer or no options in more rural and remote areas. Eleven districts received preschool development or expansion funds in the first PEG program cycle, and a second set of grants was awarded in 2018.

REL Northwest proposed this study to better understand the state's pre-elementary grants—specifically, how programs are implemented, what children the programs are serving, and the relationship between program participation and school readiness. The study will provide actionable data for Alaska policymakers and grant managers to make evidence-based decisions about future funding and program implementation.

The study is also of national significance due to recent expansions of preschool nationwide through federal and state funding. Eighteen states were awarded funding in 2014 through the federal Preschool Development Grant program, and 45 states (including Alaska) received awards through the new Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five program in 2018. This study will add to the literature on state-funded preschool program implementation and outcomes, and it will shed light on different locally designed options that may be more appropriate for small, rural schools and districts.

Research Questions:

  1. What are the program structures, instructional practices, staff supports, and community and family engagement strategies used in Alaska Pre-Elementary Grant (PEG) preschools?
    • How does PEG preschool implementation vary by district characteristics?
  2. What are the characteristics and outcomes (i.e., preschool assessment scores, kindergarten entry assessment scores, attendance, grade retention, and English language proficiency) of Alaska students served by PEG preschools?
  3. What is the relationship between PEG preschool participation and student outcomes (i.e., kindergarten entry assessment scores, attendance, grade retention, and English language proficiency)?
    • How does the relationship between PEG preschool participation and student outcomes vary by gender, race/ethnicity, English learner status, and socioeconomic status?

Study Design: For research question 1, we will examine program implementation by: (1) reviewing grant applications and monitoring reports submitted to DEED by the PEG grantees, (2) conducting interviews with up to nine PEG preschool leaders to learn more about their programs, and (3) summarizing DEED administrative data for context about the districts where PEG preschools operate.

For research questions 2 and 3, we will analyze administrative data from DEED. Since PEG implementation in Alaska occurred over multiple years and only in selected districts/schools, we can estimate the association between PEG participation and student outcomes by comparing students in different years and schools. The report will include descriptive statistics about student characteristics and outcomes in preschool and the early elementary years, as well as estimates of the relationship between PEG preschool participation and student outcomes.

Projected Release Date: Summer 2021

Partnership or Research Alliance: Alaska State Policy Research Alliance (ASPRA)

Related Products: What's Happening? report

Principal Investigators & Affiliation:

Aisling Nagel and Ashley Pierson, REL Northwest at Education Northwest