"If we want to maximize the impact of public investments in early-childhood education," says Walker Swain, "researchers and policymakers need to pay close attention to both the quality of the initial intervention and to the quality and continuity of services that follow." (Credit: iStockphoto)

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Top 1st grade teachers extend benefits of pre-K

Preschool benefits all children, but for those whose teachers in first grade earned top ratings, the benefits last longer, according to an analysis of data from Tennessee.

“Preschool alone is not the silver bullet to end poverty or close achievement gaps. It isn’t a bulletproof vest either.”

“While it’s fair to say that expanding preschool consistently has immediate measurable benefits for children who participate, we still know relatively little about what it takes to ensure longer-term academic benefits,” says Matthew G. Springer, director of the National Center for Performance Incentives and assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University.

Springer and colleagues used data from the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K Effectiveness Study (TN-VPK) and Tennessee Department of Education’s teacher evaluation system to look more closely at the relationship between preschool effectiveness and early-grade teaching quality.

“Our primary finding is that students who participated in TN-VPK and have higher-rated first grade teachers consistently perform better in first grade than students with similarly rated teachers who did not participate in TN-VPK.”

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“The strength of the interaction between pre-K participation and teacher ratings was particularly strong for two groups: students who had the lowest baseline scores and non-native English speakers,” adds Walker Swain, an advanced doctoral student and lead author of the study that is published in AERA Open.

The findings suggest high-rated teachers are more likely to build on the foundation established in pre-K investment, or that pre-K provides the scaffolding necessary for students to maximally benefit from high-level instruction.

Schools with high concentrations of poor, non-white children have a harder time attracting, supporting, and retaining effective teachers, Springer says, and administrators often move their best teachers away from the earliest grades where there are no high-stakes tests.

“Preschool alone is not the silver bullet to end poverty or close achievement gaps,” Swain says. “It isn’t a bulletproof vest either.

“If we want to maximize the impact of public investments in early-childhood education, researchers and policymakers need to pay close attention to both the quality of the initial intervention and to the quality and continuity of services that follow.”

Source: Vanderbilt University

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