Massachusetts has received great news.

The state’s federal Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) program “had a powerful impact on children’s early academic skills. The program proved effective for all children on average,” Yahoo Finance reports.

The analysis of the PEG grant was conducted by Abt Associates.

Among Abt’s findings, according to a press release:

“PEG improved children’s readiness for kindergarten by providing:

• a sizable positive impact on children’s early literacy and math skills, and

• a smaller positive impact on vocabulary skills.”

“PEG had an even bigger impact on children from homes where English was not the primary language and for children with no prior formal child care experience,” Education Dive adds.

An Abt policy brief provides background on the program. And Abt’s website has Year 1 and Year 2 evaluation reports.

“These findings are significant,” Amy Checkoway, principal associate of Abt Associates and PEG co-project director, says, “because building a strong foundation early on can improve children’s long-term engagement—and achievement—in school.”

The four-year, $60 million PEG grant “was designed to expand high-quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children and families.”

The grant invested in full-day, full-year preschool spots for more than 3,200 preschool children in 48 classrooms, in five communities. The program was “supported by local public-school districts and operated by community-based organizations.” PEG teachers were qualified and well-paid, and they were provided with training and coaching. Another feature of the program was extensive family engagement and support.

Massachusetts’ Commissioner of Early Education and Care Samantha Aigner-Treworgy highlights the importance of PEG partnerships between public schools and community organizations, noting that Abt’s analysis provides “valuable information on how early education systems and school districts can partner to leverage each other’s strengths and design quality programs that yield positive outcomes for at-risk students.”

These school/community partnerships were able to implement quality components quickly, according to the Abt report, providing “a supportive environment for both educators and families, as well as a rich learning environment for children.”

Abt says more research is underway to create a better understanding of how “particular program features” contribute to children’s improved outcomes.

What’s next? The federal PEG grants have expired, but here in Massachusetts, we are eager to see the state sustain and expand preschool expansion funding. Currently, this work is being done in nine communities though the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (CPPI), which received $5 million in the state’s FY ’20 budget.

Strategies for Children is advocating to increase this state funding in FY ’21 so more children and communities can participate.

Please join us as the budget season gets underway. Governor Charlie Baker’s budget proposal is due out tomorrow, which will create more opportunities for your advocacy, so that more children can attend high-quality preschool programs that prepare them to succeed in school.