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Smart Investments Pay Off: New Abt Associates Report Gives High Marks to Preschool Expansion Program for Low-Income Children in Massachusetts

Cambridge, MA — A new report from Abt Associates includes promising findings about the implementation of a new multi-year initiative to expand preschool access for low-income four-year-old children in Massachusetts.
In early 2015, Massachusetts received a federal Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) to increase access to full-day, full-year preschool to approximately 850 children per year in five communities: Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield.  In each community, the school district and participating community-based organizations collaborate to provide a variety of supports and resources to PEG teachers, families, and children, with the goal of providing high-quality programming and experiences that would prepare children to succeed in elementary school and beyond.
Abt researchers collected an extensive amount of data to assess the program’s first year of implementation across the 48 PEG classrooms. Assessments included standardized observations of classroom quality and the early academic skills of participating PEG children before they entered kindergarten.
“This study provides early encouraging findings on the progress that these preschool programs have made in a short amount of time, along with useful information about opportunities for growth and improvements,” said Abt Project Director Amy Checkoway.
Key Findings
  • PEG helped students develop some of the important skills needed for kindergarten. At the end of the preschool year, the majority of PEG children demonstrated early math skills and early literacy skills close to the level shown in national samples of children entering kindergarten. However, there was room for improvement for about one-third of children in their vocabulary development.
  • PEG programs are, on average, providing quality environments for preschool children.  In the first year of implementation, the PEG classrooms, on average, demonstrated a moderate to high level of overall quality, with higher scores on quality of the classroom environment and lower scores on instructional quality. Quality varied across classrooms.
  • All program sites made significant progress in achieving their quality goals.  All eleven key PEG quality elements were implemented to some degree in the first year of the program. Some quality elements were fully implemented in all communities and centers, while other PEG quality elements were partially implemented both within and across communities and programs.
  • Teachers’ levels of satisfaction and confidence are strong.  PEG teachers reported a high level of job satisfaction and confidence at being able to teach and support the children in their classrooms.
  • PEG parents are satisfied and generally feel connected. PEG parents reported a strong sense of connection to the program and satisfaction with the program’s support for their children’s development and learning.
“While there remains room for growth and consistency as the program continues into its second year of implementation, both children and parents are clearly benefitting from the program,” said Principal Investigator Dr. Barbara Goodson.
Overall, the results point to significant progress on investments in early education programs.
Said Massachusetts Early Education and Care Commissioner Tom Weber, “These promising results after just one year are a testament to the commitment and collaborative efforts of all the licensed early education programs and school districts who are participating in this important initiative.”
Read the full report.
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 60 countries.
Amy Dunaway
(301) 347-5056
North America
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