The Department of Public Instruction Tuesday released the results of two studies that have found that pre-k programs implemented in public schools perform better than programs in private centers. These analyses of the More at Four program, now NC-PreK, were conducted by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2009 and 2011. For more than a decade, FPG has acted as the external evaluator for state-funded pre-kindergarten in North Carolina.
Given the current draft report of the House Select Committee on Early Education Improvement which recommends the complete privatization of state-funded pre-kindergarten, “the release of these analyses are considered essential to informing the policy direction this state will take with respect to the education of our most fragile children,” remarked State Board of Education Chairman Dr. Bill Harrison.
-A 2011 analysis based on a random sample of More at Four classrooms for three cohorts of children, 2003-04, 2005-06 and 2007-08, found that teachers with a least a BA coupled with a Birth-Kindergarten license caused greater student learning gains on assessments of essential literacy skills than teachers without this level of education. Teachers with this combination of education and endorsement exist in significantly greater numbers in the public schools as compared to the private sector.
-An analysis conducted in 2009 showed differences in language/literacy outcomes based on the site type. Children attending More at Four in public school sites made significantly greater gains during pre-k than children attending More at Four in private child care sites in two areas of language/literacy skills: letter/word knowledge and print knowledge.
-The following results were consistent when classrooms that were in existence less than four years as well as classrooms that were four or more years old were examined: gains on letter/word knowledge and print knowledge were higher for children in public school sites than those in private child care.
-Another significant difference was found in the quality of instructional practices as determined by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). Public school sites had significantly higher classroom organization scores than did private sites, fostering well-behaved, active and engaged students. These results also held up for classrooms four or more years old where public school sites had higher classroom organization scores than private child care sites.
-Furthermore, there were several differences in language/literacy and cognitive outcomes based on the contract administrator. Children attending More at Four classes in counties/regions administered by the public schools made significantly greater gains during pre-k in letter/word knowledge, print knowledge, and applied math scores than children attending More at Four classes with contracts administered by local Smart Start partnerships.
-Finally, this analysis showed some additional differences based on the age of classrooms as well. For classrooms less than four years old, children in public-school-administered contracts made significantly greater gains in letter/word knowledge, but also in problem behaviors.
-For classrooms four years old or older, children in public school-administered contracts made significantly greater gains on nearly all measures: letter/word knowledge, print knowledge, phonological awareness, applied problems, and social skills than children in sites administered by local partnerships.
-In contrast to newer sites, children in public school-administered contracts showed a significantly greater decrease in problem behaviors than children in local partnership-administered contracts.
To read Chairman Harrison’s blog on the report from the House Select Committee on Early Education Improvement, visit http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/stateboard/