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Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research


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FY Awards

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Dr. Caroline Ebanks
(202) 245-8320


Despite decades of federal, state, and local programs intended to support young children's preparation for schooling, children from families with low incomes continue to begin formal schooling at a disadvantage. Although research from the 1960s and 1970s has demonstrated that some children can benefit from participation in high-quality preschool programs, the applicability of this research to current programs and children is not clear. To provide evidence of the impact of contemporary preschool curricula, NCER is conducting a multi-site efficacy evaluation of 14 preschool curricula.

The Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research (PCER) program is an evaluation of the efficacy of current preschool curricula. The program was created to address the lack of rigorous, systematic evaluations of preschool curricula currently in use by supporting small-scale efficacy evaluations of available preschool curricula that had not been rigorously evaluated. The evaluations were conducted using a common assessment protocol and a randomized experimental design.

In 2002, the Institute of Education Sciences awarded grants to seven researchers to implement several widely used preschool curricula, with Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International collecting common data across the seven projects. In 2003 the Institute funded an additional five researchers, with Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), Inc. serving as their national evaluation coordinator. National evaluation data were collected in fall and spring of the preschool year and the spring of the kindergarten year. Data collection includes direct child assessments, parent interviews, teacher report on children's social skills, teacher interview, and direct classroom observations. The final sample included Head Start, Title 1, State Pre-K and private preschool programs serving over 2,000 children in 20 geographic locations implementing 13 different experimental preschool curricula.

The Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Research, has released its report on the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research (PCER) initiative. The report entitled, Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness, presents findings for the impact of each curriculum on five student-level outcomes (reading, phonological awareness, language, mathematics, and behavior) and six classroom-level outcomes (classroom quality, teacher-child interaction, and four types of instruction).

To browse the Executive Summary of this report and to view, download and print the report as a PDF file, please visit:

PCER Websites:

IES funds additional research on preschool populations as part of its Early Learning Programs and Policies research program.

Publications from this project:

Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Consortium (2008). Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness (NCER 2008–2009). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Research. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.