Decades of research on early childhood education have shown that four-year-old children who enroll in pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs start kindergarten scoring higher on assessments of academic skills than those who do not. However, as early as kindergarten or first grade, children who did not attend pre-K perform similarly to children who did when it comes to academic skills such as letter knowledge and counting. Yet, when researchers are able to measure a broader range of children’s skills and competencies, there is growing evidence that the benefits of pre-K are more likely to be sustained as children move through elementary school.
This brief looks at examples of additional and sometimes less frequently measured types of skills that pre-K programs may help boost in the short term and sustain over the longer term. It then presents evidence from existing studies conducted by MDRC and other researchers that shows how measuring a broader set of outcomes is key to a more comprehensive understanding of the benefits of pre-K.