At Tools, we know that investing in young children can change their long-term learning trajectories. But can public preschool attendance predict which students will go on to pursue 4-year college degrees? A new study of Tulsa preschool alums says it can.
What we heard from teachers and administration at after implementing Tools at
Chasing equity in higher ed? Let’s go back to PreK
Committee search to choose the right curriculum
Selection of Tools of the Mind curriculum & professional development
Tools training and implementation for all relevant staff
Teaching and learning review and outcomes
Colleges pay attention to applicants’ high school transcripts and experiences, yet most don’t give much thought to whether their incoming class attended preschool. New research suggests maybe they should. As the Tools team would be first to tell you, a few years of preschool can go a long way. Though even we might not have predicted that preschool attendance can play a role in whether students choose 2- or 4-year colleges. Of course, not just any preschool has the power to change college learning trajectories: it’s attending a high-quality preschool program that makes the difference.
A study out of Georgetown University, where researchers have been evaluating the impact of Tulsa's universal PreK program, looked at college enrollment data for thousands of former Tulsa Kindergarten students, including both those who had attended one of Tulsa's two public preschool programs (Universal PreK or Tulsa Head Start) and those who hadn't. Tulsa’s public preschool program is recognized for its quality, with strict requirements for teachers (both a bachelor’s degree and early childhood certificate are mandatory) and low teacher-student ratios. Unlike some public preschool programs that serve only students with disabilities or those from low-income families, Tulsa’s program serves all interested students. These quality markers play a big role in the program’s success and outcomes.
Investment in early childhood education may be a key piece of the puzzle in advancing equity in higher education. At Tools, equity matters to us. We want all children to experience the improved outcomes and life experiences that a strong start in preschool can help to provide.
There is a strong relationship between high-quality preschool enrollment and later college enrollment, particularly for students of color. Preschool alums of all backgrounds had significantly higher 2- and 4-year college enrollment rates and public preschool attendance was a significant determinant of 4-year college enrollment for Black and Hispanic students in particular.
Investment in early childhood education may be a key piece of the puzzle in advancing equity in higher education. At Tools, equity matters to us. We want all children to experience the improved outcomes and life experiences that a strong start in preschool can help to provide. It gives us pause knowing that nationally the gap is growing between white students who enroll in college and their Black and Hispanic peers. But we are encouraged by evidence that teachers and schools using Tools and other high-quality preschool programs are making strides in reversing this trend. Let’s celebrate increased access for Black and Hispanic students in higher education; we look forward to seeing more of it. Attending a high-quality preschool can truly influence future educational opportunities for our children.
California has joined a growing number of states striving to offer preschool to all of its students. Both quality and enrollment of its universal TK (transitional kindergarten) program have been steadily improving. Now, to take it to the next level, they want to get everyone involved.
For a peek at how Oklahoma became the first state in the country to roll out universal PreK, join us as we listen in on this riveting, recently rebroadcast segment of This American Life.