MCPS Study Documents Positive Effects of Full-Day Prekindergarten

May 10, 2010
Students in Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) full-day Head Start prekindergarten (pre-K) program are generally more ready for kindergarten and demonstrate higher academic performance in kindergarten, according to a school system report. The benefits of the increased instructional time in the full-day program are reflected in a substantially greater number of students meeting the reading benchmark set for kindergarten compared with students in MCPS half-day pre-K programs.

This positive effect on reading performance was particularly strong among African American students in the full-day program, who were 94 percent more likely to meet the reading benchmark than their MCPS peers in the half-day pre-K programs. Students in full-day pre-K who received free and reduced- price meals (a measure of poverty) were 60 percent more likely to meet the benchmark than those in the half-day pre-K classes.

The report from MCPS’ Office of Shared Accountability also shows that students in the school system’s full-day pre-K program needed significantly lower levels of special education services in kindergarten.

The results provide further evidence of the positive impact of MCPS’ investment in early childhood education, particularly for students most at risk for academic failure because of poverty.

“This report reinforces the power of full-day pre-kindergarten for our at-risk students,” said Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast. “Our citizens recognize that a commitment to preparing students for college and the work world must begin at the earliest grade levels and continue throughout a child’s elementary and secondary education.”

The report, Evaluating Lasting Effects of Full-day Prekindergarten Program on School Readiness, Academic Performance, and Special Education Services, compares reading and mathematics attainment levels among students in the MCPS Head Start full-day pre-K with students in Head Start half-day pre-K, MCPS half-day pre-K, and those without prekindergarten experience within MCPS. This report examines the effects of full-day prekindergarten on at-risk students by the end of the kindergarten year.

The MCPS prekindergarten program includes locally funded pre-K classes, as well as locally and federally funded Head Start classes. The first MCPS full-day prekindergarten program was offered in the 2007-2008 school year at ten Title I elementary schools that have a high percentage of students living in poverty. These classes provide an early learning experience for mostly four-year-old children who meet Head Start and pre-K program income-eligibility guidelines. These programs are integral parts of the MCPS Early Success Reform plan, designed to provide necessary supports for all students to achieve at their highest levels and address the pervasive achievement gaps among student groups.

The study found that the additional instructional time provided in the Head Start full-day program produced a remarkably positive impact on student reading performance and reduced the need for special education services in kindergarten, compared with outcomes for students in half-day pre-K programs and those not in MCPS prekindergarten.

Here are some of the highlights:

· Students in the Head Start full-day program were more likely to meet the reading benchmark (Level 4) by the end of kindergarten than those in half-day Head Start (44 percent more likely) and the MCPS half-day pre-K program (53 percent more likely).

· African American students and students receiving Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS) services who attended Head Start full-day pre-K classes were 94 and 60 percent more likely to meet the Level 4 reading benchmark compared with their MCPS peers in half-day prekindergarten classes.

· Students receiving English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services in Head Start full-day classes were much more likely to be fully ready for school than their peers in the MCPS half-day prekindergarten program at the beginning of kindergarten.

· Head Start full-day students required half as many special education services per week as their peers without MCPS pre-K experience when they were in kindergarten. (The costs savings is significant, as the average annual cost for kindergarten students receiving special education services during the 2008-2009 school year was $16,230.)

Students in full-day Head Start generally performed at the same level on mathematics as those in the comparison groups. A recommendation of the study is to examine factors related to mathematics instruction such as scheduling, grouping, and materials in both pre-K and kindergarten.

The measures used for the study were the Maryland Model for School Readiness, MCPS Assessment Program in Primary Reading, MCPS Kindergarten Mathematics Performance Assessment, and weekly hours of special education services students received in kindergarten. 

Read the report at

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