- Henry T. Woodyard
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Henry T. Woodyard
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic initially resulted in an unanticipated and near-universal shift from in-person to virtual instruction in spring 2020. During the 2020-21 school year, schools began to re-open and families were faced with decisions regarding the instructional mode for their children. We leverage administrative, survey, and virtual-learning data to examine the determinants of family learning-mode choice and the effects of virtual education on student engagement and academic achievement. Family preference for virtual (versus face-to-face) instruction was most highly associated with school-level infection rates and appeared relatively uniform within schools. We find that students who were assigned a higher proportion of instructional days in virtual mode experienced higher rates of attendance, but also negative student achievement growth compared to students who were assigned a higher proportion of instructional days in face-to-face mode. Students belonging to marginalized groups experienced more positive associations with attendance but were also more likely to experience lower student achievement growth when assigned a greater proportion of instructional days in virtual mode. Insights from this study can be used to better understand family preference as well as to target and refine virtual learning in a post-COVID-19 society.