From the Field

The Lasting Impact of Tulsa’s Pre-K Program

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In recent years, the debate over the efficacy of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs has shifted from school readiness to longer-term effects. A key question is whether short-term positive effects on cognitive test scores, which have now been amply documented, persist or fade out over time. In general, taxpayers and public officials would like some assurance that investments in pre-K have enduring impacts that can justify these expenditures.

A new study by Georgetown University’s William T. Gormley and Deborah Phillips and West Virginia University’s Sara Anderson finds that Tulsa’s universal, school-based preK program has lasting impact as late as middle school on math achievement test scores, enrollment in honors courses, and grade retention for students as a whole, and similar effects for certain subgroups.