Preschool programs found to benefit low-income Latino children

December 6, 2016, Society for Research in Child Development

Enrollment of Latino children in early care and education programs is relatively low, with six in 10 not attending preschool before kindergarten. In addition, few long-term evaluations of early care and education programs have included Latino children. Now a new study has found that low-income Latino children who attended either public school prekindergarten or center-based care with child care subsidies at age 4 did well through the end of third grade, but those in public school prekindergarten did better academically than those in center-based care, especially English language learners.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, Abt Associates, the University of Missouri, Florida International University, and George Mason University. It appears in the journal Child Development. Using a longitudinal research design that followed children attending different early childhood programs (specifically subsidized center based child care and public school pre-kindergarten), the study shows that public school prekindergarten appears to improve academic outcomes for third grade Latino children.

Researchers used data from 11,902 low-income Latino children who were part of the Miami School Readiness Project (MSRP) between 2002 and 2006. About 75 percent of the children received free or reduced-price lunches (an indicator of poverty) and 80 percent were English .

Children attended either public school prekindergarten programs or center-based programs that accepted child care subsidies. In Miami at the time, prekindergarten programs were housed in public schools, ran for 3 to 4 hours a day, and had an average student-teacher ratio of 20:2. By contrast, the average center-based was either for profit or faith based, ran for 7 to 8 hours a day, and was largely unaccredited, with an average student-teacher ratio of 16:1.

The study looked at children's performance on state standardized tests of math and reading in third grade as well as children's grade point average (GPA) in third grade. Researchers tested children's at the end of preschool and the beginning of kindergarten. They also assessed the children's English proficiency each year in school.

"Although all Latino children in our sample performed reasonably well through the end of third grade as compared to other public school children in the region, those who attended public school prekindergarten at age 4 outperformed their classmates previously in center-based care on math and reading, and they had higher GPAs in third grade," notes Arya Ansari, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Virginia (who was at the University of Texas at Austin at the time of the study). The findings held even when taking into account baseline characteristics (e.g., receipt of free and reduced-price lunch, gender, age, language at home, and country of origin) and children's skills when they entered preschool (e.g., cognitive, language, and fine-motor skills, as well as social-behavioral skills).

"We found that those children who took part in prekindergarten programs started kindergarten with stronger academic skills, more optimal social-behavior skills, and English-language proficiency," Ansari says. "This appeared to contribute to their success in third grade." The findings were also true for English language learners.

Because the study looked at the experiences of Latino children in Miami, the findings are not generalizable to all Latinos (who may have different immigration backgrounds) in other parts of the United States. In addition, the study's authors caution, the research can't speak to whether these children's experiences are typical or unique compared to children from other backgrounds (for example, Latino children who attended Head Start or who were cared for at home were not included in the MSRP sample).

Adds Adam Winsler, professor of psychology at George Mason University, who was a principal investigator for the original Miami School Readiness Project (MSRP) and coauthor of the study: "While our results are not causal, they provide much-needed insight into the experiences of Latino children in publicly funded early care and in Miami. Our work reveals that policymakers should consider that such programs can help put Latino on a path toward more positive school achievement."

Explore further: Preschool education improves alphabet letter recognition, study finds

More information: Differential Third-Grade Outcomes Associated with Attending Publicly Funded Preschool Programs for Low-Income Latino Children, Child Development, 2016.

Related Stories

Preschool education improves alphabet letter recognition, study finds

November 15, 2016
Many education experts believe children's preschool years are important to their educational development and preparation for success in school. Although the benefits of attending preschool may seem apparent, limited evidence ...

Low-income Latino children show benefits from Montessori pre-kindergartern programs study finds

May 19, 2014
Low-income Latino children who experienced one year of Montessori pre-K education at age 4 made dramatic improvements in early achievement and behavior even though they began the year at great risk for school failure, according ...

Toddlers whose parents use subsidies to buy center-based care more likely to enroll in Head Start

June 12, 2014
Children of parents who use subsidies to purchase center-based care in the toddler years are more likely to be enrolled in Head Start or public prekindergarten in their preschool years, according to a new study. The research, ...

Childhood obesity and overweight rates rise during summer break, not during school year

November 2, 2016
Increases in overweight and obesity rates among young children occur during summer vacations, not during the school year, according to new research from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.

Recommended for you

Study: Tinder loving cheaters—dating app facilitates infidelity

February 23, 2018
The popular dating app Tinder is all about helping people form new relationships. But for many college-aged people, it's also helping those in relationships cheat on their romantic partners.

The 'loudness' of our thoughts affects how we judge external sounds

February 23, 2018
The "loudness" of our thoughts—or how we imagine saying something—influences how we judge the loudness of real, external sounds, a team of researchers from NYU Shanghai and NYU has found.

Young children use physics, not previous rewards, to learn about tools

February 23, 2018
Children as young as seven apply basic laws of physics to problem-solving, rather than learning from what has previously been rewarded, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge.

Looking for the origins of schizophrenia

February 23, 2018
Schizophrenia may be related to neurodevelopmental changes, including brain's inability to generate an appropriate vascular system, according to new study resulted from a partnership between the D"Or Institute for Research ...

Color of judo uniform has no effect on winning

February 22, 2018
New research on competitive judo data finds a winning bias for the athlete who is first called, regardless of the colour of their uniform. This unique study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, puts to rest the debate on ...

Infants are able to learn abstract rules visually

February 22, 2018
Three-month-old babies cannot sit up or roll over, yet they are already capable of learning patterns from simply looking at the world around them, according to a recent Northwestern University study published in PLOS One.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.