D.C. Students Who Participated in Pre-K Have an Edge in Third Grade

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why third grade is a turning point for student success. According to my research on third grade proficiency for an upcoming DC Action issue brief, experts agree that high-quality early education is a key stepping stone to proficiency by third grade.

Now, with the release of the 2011-2012 D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) scores, we have preliminary D.C. data to help back up that claim. In presenting the results, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) analyzed performance on third grade test scores by Pre-K participation.

These one-year, preliminary results suggest across-the-board proficiency advantages among students who attended Pre-K, with the exception of special education students in math. Overall, third grade proficiency was 2.1 percentage points greater in math and 3.5 percentage points greater in reading among Pre-K participants. More data highlights among sub-groups of students included:

•    Among black students, Pre-K attendees were 5.2 percentage points more proficient in math and 6.3 percentage points more proficient in reading
•    Hispanic Pre-K attendees were more proficient in reading by 8.3 percentage points
•    Among students from low-income households, Pre-K attendees were 4 percentage points more proficient in reading, and 4.7 percentage points more proficient in math.

These differences may seem small at first glance, but those small gains will be amplified by greater numbers of students attending Pre-K each year thanks to recent Pre-K expansions in D.C. For a sense of scale, consider that overall proficiency in D.C. increased by 5 percentage points, to 47.4 percent, from 2008-2012. If the city hopes to reach Mayor Gray’s goal of 70 percent proficiency by 2017, we should use every proven strategy to give D.C. children an educational edge. It would also be interesting to look at third grade scores based on whether children attended preschool and Pre-K from ages 3 to 5, to see if that was associated with additional proficiency gains.

Once the raw data for 2012 is released, you can expect more detailed analysis from DC Action on what the latest DC CAS scores tell us about third grade proficiency, its relationship to early education and student progress across D.C.

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