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MCPS Study Shows Effectiveness of Full-day Prekindergarten

February 20, 2009
MCPS Study Shows Effectiveness of Full-day Pre-K in Improving Young Students’ Academic Performance

Significantly Greater Gains in Reading Among Students in Full-day Programs;Greatest Progress Made by Hispanic Students, Including Those in ESOL

A Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) study released today shows that students enrolled in full-day prekindergarten programs are making significant strides in reading and mathematics, outpacing the progress being made by children enrolled in half-day pre-K programs. The study also found some of the greatest progress in academic performance being made by Hispanic students in full-day Head Start and those specifically receiving English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services.

“This study provides us with powerful data on the impact of a well-designed, full-day program in improving the performance of our youngest, most vulnerable students,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools. “It shows what a phenomenal difference our early childhood education programs are making, especially for students who have an opportunity to participate in a full-day experience.”

Montgomery County’s prekindergarten programs include both locally funded MCPS pre-K classes and locally and federally funded Head Start classes. In 2007–08, MCPS utilized federal funding to expand Head Start programs from half-day to full-day for 10 of its Title I elementary schools, with 13 total classes.

The MCPS full-day pre-K study is based on a review of 2007–08 reading and math performance for students participating in three types of pre-K programs that are offered in the county school system: Head Start full-day; Head Start half-day; and MCPS half-day. Classes are geared to providing effective and high-quality preschool programs and early education services to children who are eligible for free and reduced-priced meals. All pre-K classes offered by MCPS provide scientifically based and literacy-focused instruction five days a week, throughout the 180-day school year.

In September 2007, when the study was initiated, 2,538 students were enrolled in all pre-K classes offered by MCPS. Just over 10 percent of them (260) were enrolled in the full-day Head Start program.

Among the findings in the MCPS study:

• Students in the Head Start full-day classes made significantly larger gains in reading skills, compared with peers in the Head Start half-day classes. By spring of the 2007–08 school year, the reading scores of students in the full-day programs more than doubled.

• Significantly larger gains were found in math for some subgroups of students in the Head Start full-day classes than in the half-day classes.

• Students in Head Start full-day classes made significantly larger gains in reading and math compared with those in the MCPS half-day classes.

• Gains were significantly larger for female and Hispanic students, as well as for students receiving English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services in the Head Start full-day classes.

The study also found that much greater gains were made among students in some elementary schools with the highest poverty rates, including Broad Acres, Twinbrook, and Viers Mill elementary schools. In addition, the study concludes that the full-day program effects were “sufficient enough to have practical educational significance” and that the gains made were large enough to justify a higher cost per student for the programs.

A key recommendation of the study is to expand Head Start half-day classes to Head Start full-day classes in Title I schools, if funding is available.

The full report can be found at the link below.

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