Focused Research Studies

The project entails four study components that will run concurrently.

Study 1: Analysis of Achievement Gaps in Meeting California K-3 Standards

This study component will address how far California is from having all children meet current education standards in kindergarten through third grade, with a focus on achievement in English-language arts and mathematics. In particular, the following questions will be addressed:

  • What is the number and percentage of California's children in grades K-3 who do not meet the state education standards in English-language arts and mathematics in their respective grades?
  • How does the fraction that fails to meet state standards vary across key population groups defined by gender, race-ethnicity, English-language ability, or other measures of family background?
  • What is the potential for increased access to high-quality preschool programs to close the observed achievement gaps?

The analysis draws on state- and local-level school readiness and achievement data for California, as well as prior studies that document the benefits of high-quality preschool education.

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Study 2: Policy Analysis of Publicly-Funded Preschool and Child Care in California and Case Study Counties

The objective of this study component is to fully document the complex system of public funding for ECE programs in California today. Specific questions to be addressed include:

  • What federal, state, and local funding streams currently fund ECE programs for California children one or two years before kindergarten entry?
  • What are the eligibility requirements for these programs and how are children enrolled? How many children are eligible, how many children participate, and what fraction of eligible children is served?
  • What requirements for service delivery are maintained for these programs (e.g., requirements for provider or teacher training, group sizes, and program services) and how do those requirements relate to benchmarks for high-quality programs?
  • How are programs funded and providers reimbursed? How much funding is available, and do the reimbursement mechanisms provide an incentive to deliver high-quality programs?
  • Are there inefficiencies within or across programs in terms of funding streams, program eligibility, service delivery, and program administration?

The analysis provides a comprehensive assessment of ECE programs—for California as a whole, as well as four case study counties: Los Angeles, Merced, San Diego, and San Mateo counties.

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Study 3: Collection and Analysis of New Data on ECE Utilization and Quality

The objective of the third study component is to fill the information gap about the nature and quality of ECE arrangements for California children one or two years away from kindergarten entry. The analysis draws on survey and observational data, collected specifically for this project, designed to address the following questions:

  • What is the distribution of ECE arrangements for California's children one or two years prior to kindergarten entry? What fraction of children attend center-based programs, such as Head Start, the California State Preschool Program, or other public or private center-based programs, or participate in other types of child-care arrangements in home-based settings?
  • How does the use of different ECE arrangements vary with the characteristics of the child or of the child's family?
  • What is the distribution of the quality of center-based ECE arrangements among California's children in the two years prior to kindergarten entry? What fraction of children is in lower-quality versus higher-quality settings?
  • How does the quality of center-based ECE arrangements vary with the characteristics of the child or of the child's family?

The answers to these questions are based on information collected in 2007 from families about their children's ECE arrangements. Information was also collected from the ECE providers that the families use about the features of the care and learning environments they provide. The provider-based information includes both provider self-reports and independent observations by specially trained interviewers.

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Study 4: Synthesis Study of Preschool Adequacy and Efficiency

The fourth study integrates the results from the other three study components to provide a comprehensive policy analysis of the gaps in access and quality in the current ECE system in the two years prior to kindergarten entry and the consequences for student achievement in the early grades. Policy options for improving preschool opportunities in California through efficiency gains, new policies, or additional resources are delineated. Future research needs are identified as well.

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