Participation in State-Funded Prekindergarten in Oklahoma

Published in: Regional Educational Laboratory website (December 2020)

Posted on RAND.org on March 16, 2021

by Katie Dahlke, Lynn A. Karoly, Rachel Perera, Michael Little, Chad Henry, Shannon Lasserre-Cortez, Dean Gerdeman

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This study examined participation in Oklahoma's state-funded prekindergarten (preK) program for five cohorts of first-time public school kindergarten students (2014/15 through 2018/19) and compared the percentages of students who participated in the program by geographic locale and student characteristics. Across the five years examined, 74 percent of first-time public school kindergarten students had attended state-funded preK in the prior year. A substantially greater percentage of students in rural school districts participated than students in nonrural school districts. A substantially greater percentage of students identified to receive special education services in kindergarten participated in state-funded preK than students not identified to receive such services. Students eligible for reduced-price lunch participated at a moderately greater rate than students eligible for free lunch and students not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Compared with White students, a moderately greater percentage of American Indian students participated, while a substantially smaller percentage of Pacific Islander students and a moderately smaller percentage of Black students participated. The study also examined relationships between participation and geographic measures of access to early learning and care. Students who lived farther from a state-funded preK site were less likely to participate in state-funded preK, and students who lived farther from a Head Start center were more likely to participate. The differences in student participation across geographic areas and student characteristics reveal an opportunity for policies and strategies to promote greater awareness of state-funded preK or other early learning and care options.

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