In 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education (EEC) was awarded a federal Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG grant), funds that officials are using to expand high-quality preschool in Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield.
Now, a new report says the first year of PEG grant activity has produced strong benefits – with room for targeted improvements.
“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 Barbara Goodson.
“The five participating cities are making significant progress toward supporting our goal of helping all children achieve math and reading proficiency by third grade,” Governor Charlie Baker said earlier this month in a press release.
“The collaborations between school districts and licensed early education programs are helping to increase local capacity to build sustainable early education systems that will benefit children over the long-term.” Secretary of Education Jim Peyser added.
To evaluate the PEG grants, state officials hired Abt Associates, a research firm based in Cambridge that’s working with the University of Massachusetts Boston.
The evaluation will examine multiple program factors over several separate studies, including:
• an implementation study of the quality elements in PEG classrooms (2015-16)
• a longitudinal study of outcomes for PEG educators, children and families (2016-17)
• an impact study of how PEG effects children and families (2016-17), and
• a cost study that will analyze costs over the first three years of the grant
Among the results so far:
• “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.” However, “Quality varied substantially across classrooms.”
See exhibit S.1 below for a summary. Researchers used five different program quality assessment tools to measure learning conditions in 48 PEG classrooms.
• “At the end of the preschool year, PEG children, on average, demonstrated levels of early math skills, early literacy skills, and vocabulary comprehension close to the level shown in national samples of children entering kindergarten.”
However, “the proportion of children meeting age expectations on these outcomes varied substantially across classrooms, and about one-third of PEG children overall were below age expectations on English language vocabulary.”
• “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.”
• “PEG teachers reported a high level of job satisfaction and confidence at being able to teach and support the children in their classrooms,” and
• “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.”
“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,” EEC Commissioner Tom Weber said in the press release.
The next steps: Build on the PEG grants’ progress to create more high-quality, early education for more of the state’s young children.