In the US, compulsory schooling usually starts a year later than in the UK, with the first year – kindergarten – equivalent to Year 1. Pre-kindergarten programmes in the US are run privately or through federally funded initiatives typically aimed at deprived children, such as Head Start. Tennessee’s Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (TN-VPK) is an optional
pre-kindergarten programme for four-year‐old children. First priority is given
to children who are identified as at-risk (ie, eligible for free or reduced
price lunch, with disabilities, or with English as an Additional Language).
In 2013, the Peabody Research Institute published the results of a randomised controlled trial in
which children applying to the programme were admitted on a random basis. The
outcome measures were: emergent literacy, language, and maths; and measures of
pupils' performance or status other than academic achievement.
During the pre‐kindergarten school year, the children who participated in
TN‐VPK gained significantly more on all of the direct assessments of academic
skills than the children who did not attend. Positive effects were also found on
kindergarten teachers’ ratings of children’s preparedness for kindergarten and,
to a lesser extent, on their ratings of the children’s classroom work behaviour
and social behaviour.
However, at follow-up at the end of kindergarten, the researchers found that
the effects of TN‐VPK on achievement measures had greatly diminished, and the
differences between participants and non-participants were no longer
statistically significant. Similarly, at the end of first grade (UK Year 2),
there were no statistically significant differences between TN‐VPK participants
and non-participants on these measures (with one minor exception).
Sources: Evaluation of the Tennessee Voluntary
Prekindergarten Program: End of Pre‐K Results from the Randomized Control
Design (2013), Peabody Research Institute. Evaluation of the Tennessee
Voluntary Prekindergarten Program: Kindergarten and First Grade Follow‐Up
Results from the Randomized Control Design (2013), Peabody Research