Boosting School Readiness

Should Preschool Teachers Target Skills or the Whole Child?

Published in: Economics of Education Review [Epub May 2018]. doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2018.05.001

Posted on RAND.org on May 22, 2018

by Jade M. Jenkins, Greg J. Duncan, Anamarie A. Whitaker, Marianne P. Bitler, Thurston Domina, Margaret Burchinal

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We use experimental data to estimate impacts on school readiness of different kinds of preschool curricula—a largely neglected preschool input and measure of preschool quality. We find that the widely-used "whole-child" curricula found in most Head Start and pre-K classrooms produced higher classroom process quality than did locally-developed curricula, but failed to improve children's school readiness. A curriculum focused on building mathematics skills increased both classroom math activities and children's math achievement relative to the whole-child curricula. Similarly, curricula focused on literacy skills increased literacy achievement relative to whole-child curricula, despite failing to boost measured classroom process quality.

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