The Annenberg Institute at Brown University offers this national working paper series to provide open access to high-quality papers from multiple disciplines and from multiple universities and research organizations on a wide variety of topics related to education. EdWorkingPapers focuses particularly on research with strong implications for education policy. EdWorkingPapers circulates papers prior to publication for comment and discussion; these papers have not gone through a peer review processes. Contributors can update papers to provide readers with the most up-to-date findings.
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Numerous studies have demonstrated a strong link between participation in pre-K programs and both short-term student achievement and positive later-life outcomes. Existing evidence primarily stems from experimental studies of small-scale, high-quality programs conducted in the 1960s and 1970s and analyses of the federal Head Start program. Meanwhile, evidence on state-funded pre-K programs, with no income restrictions, is scant and inconclusive. Using enrollment lotteries for over-subscribed school-based sites in Georgia’s universal pre-K program, we analyze the impact of participation on elementary school outcomes. Lottery winners enter kindergarten more prepared in both math and reading than non-winning peers. Gains fade by the end of kindergarten, and some negative achievement effects emerge by grade 4. Free-and-reduced-price meal (FRPM) students benefit more compared to non-FRPM students in later grades, suggesting greater benefits from attendance for disadvantaged students. Although we find no effects for discipline, lottery winners had one fewer absence each grade after kindergarten.