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Research Questions

  1. Among the 2017–2018 kindergarten class, how does the kindergarten readiness of children who enrolled in Big Lift preschool compare with children who enrolled in non–Big Lift preschool or who did not attend preschool at all?
  2. Among Big Lift preschoolers in the 2017–2018 kindergarten class, how does the kindergarten readiness of children who had two years of Big Lift preschool compare with those who had only one year?
  3. Among the 2016–2017 kindergarten class, how do reading outcomes from the spring of kindergarten and the fall of first grade differ between children who enrolled in Big Lift preschool and children who enrolled in non–Big Lift preschool or who did not attend preschool at all?
  4. Among the 2016–2017 kindergarten class, how do reading outcomes from the fall of first grade compare for children who enrolled in Big Lift summer activities with those of children who enrolled in non–Big Lift summer programs or who did not enroll in any summer programs at all in the summer following kindergarten?

Launched in 2012, The Big Lift is a collective impact initiative extending from preschool to third grade that aims to boost children's reading proficiency in San Mateo County, California, through four different types of activities, called "pillars": (1) High-Quality Preschool, (2) Summer Learning, (3) School Attendance, and (4) Family Engagement. RAND researchers are conducting a multiphase evaluation of the initiative, including an implementation study of the pillars and descriptive analysis focused on the outcomes of children who received Big Lift services. This report, the second in a series of descriptive analyses, follows up on the 2016–2017 kindergarten class by presenting data on their reading outcomes measured at the end of kindergarten and the start of first grade and describes the experiences and outcomes of the 2017–2018 kindergarten class measured at kindergarten entry. The authors determined that in the 2017–2018 kindergarten class, children who attended Big Lift preschool had higher scores than children who did not attend preschool, and children who attended two years of Big Lift preschool were more kindergarten-ready than children who attended just one year. Big Lift preschoolers had lower scores than children who attended other community programs. Evidence from the 2016–2017 kindergarten class suggests that the Big Lift advantage over children who did not attend preschool persisted into first grade. Results also indicate that children who attended the Big Lift Inspiring Summer program, children who went to other summer programs, and children who did not attend any summer program following kindergarten all had similar reading scores at the start of first grade.

Key Findings

Kindergarten readiness of children in Big Lift districts

  • Big Lift preschoolers in the 2017–2018 kindergarten class were more kindergarten-ready than demographically similar peers who did not attend preschool and less kindergarten-ready than children who attended other preschool programs.
  • When comparing demographically similar peers, children in the 2017–2018 kindergarten class who attended two years of Big Lift were more kindergarten-ready than children who attended only one year of Big Lift preschool.

Early elementary school reading scores of children in Big Lift districts

  • Big Lift preschoolers in the 2016–2017 kindergarten class had higher reading scores at the end of kindergarten and start of first grade than children who did not go to preschool, and they had reading scores that were on par with children who went to other preschool programs, accounting for demographic characteristics.
  • This suggests that the cognitive advantage that Big Lift preschoolers had over children who did not attend preschool at the start of kindergarten persisted into early elementary school.

Reading scores and summer learning experiences following kindergarten of children in Big Lift districts

  • Children who attended the Big Lift Inspiring Summers program in the summer after kindergarten had reading levels at the start of first grade similar to children who went to other summer programs and children who did not attend any summer programs, accounting for demographic characteristics.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by commissioned by The Big Lift with generous funding from the County of San Mateo and conducted by RAND Education and RAND Labor and Population.

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