Hispanic Children Show Substantial Benefits From Tulsa's Pre-Kindergarten Program
Jan 07, 2008
Researchers at the Public Policy Institute of Georgetown University sought to determine how much Hispanic children benefited from participation in the Oklahoma state pre-kindergarten program. They also set out to understand whether there were demographic characteristics of some Hispanic students that helped them benefit from the program. The results of the study are reported in The Effects of Oklahoma s Pre-K Program on Hispanic Children. The researchers administered an academic skills assessment test in English and in Spanish to a group of Hispanic students who had attended pre-kindergarten in Tulsa, Oklahoma the previous year and to a group of Hispanic students who were about to enter the same pre-kindergarten program.
Results showed that the group of students that previously completed the program had substantially higher pre-reading, pre-writing, and pre-math skills than the group of students that had yet to experience the program. The analysis also revealed that children whose parents spoke Spanish at home and whose parents were born in Mexico benefited the most from the pre-kindergarten program. These children had higher test score gains in all three areas, compared to other Hispanic children. Hispanic children who were tested in both Spanish and English showed gains in both languages, although stronger gains in English, which suggests the benefits of the program extended beyond English language acquisition alone. Finally, while the Tulsa pre-kindergarten program is an English immersion program, Hispanic children performed better on the test if their teacher spoke some Spanish. Related research shows that pre-kindergarten students social and language development benefits from being in classrooms with Spanish-speaking teachers.
This study is part of a growing body of research that shows that children in immigrant families and English Language Learners can benefit from high-quality early childhood education programs that prepare them to learn and succeed as they enter elementary school. While at least 15 states include ELLs among their targeted at-risk populations or use ELL status to prioritize enrollment among eligible children for targeted state pre-kindergarten programs, the reality is that children of immigrants and ELLs remain less likely to participate in all early care and education programs. To further meet the needs of young children from diverse backgrounds, early childhood education programs should be culturally competent and facilitate access to high-quality comprehensive services and family support, and that include opportunities for providers to receive training to support the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of these families.