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Research Questions

  1. How do the kindergarten readiness skills and home reading practices of Big Lift preschoolers compare with those of non–Big Lift preschoolers or children who did not attend preschool?
  2. Within a subgroup of children from lower-income homes, how do Big Lift preschoolers' readiness skills, home practices, and reading outcomes compare with those of their peers?
  3. How do the kindergarten readiness skills of children who had two years of Big Lift preschool compare with those of children who had one year?
  4. How do the reading outcomes at the start of first and second grade for children who enrolled in BLIS in the previous summers compare with those of children who enrolled in non–Big Lift summer programs or did not enroll in any summer programs?

The Big Lift™ (Big Lift), a collective impact initiative extending from preschool through third grade in San Mateo County, California, aims to boost reading proficiency and kindergarten readiness through four programmatic pillars: High-Quality Preschool, Summer Learning, Attendance, and Family Engagement. In this report, the authors present results describing the early learning outcomes of children from three kindergarten classes who were eligible to participate in Big Lift. This report — part of a multiphase evaluation of Big Lift services — is the third in a series of annual outcome studies that focus on two pillars: High-Quality Preschool and Summer Learning. In earlier reports, the authors examined the early education and summer learning experiences of the 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 kindergarten classes. In this report, the authors continue to follow these children through elementary school and add data for a new class of children, the 2018–2019 kindergarten class.

The authors found that Big Lift preschoolers were more likely to be kindergarten-ready than demographically similar peers who did not attend preschool, but were less likely to be ready than peers who attended other community preschools. They also found that most children who attended Big Lift Inspiring Summers (BLIS) before first or second grade maintained or improved their reading levels over the summer. Within a subgroup of lower-income children, children who attended BLIS in the summer after kindergarten had reading levels at the start of first grade that were higher than those of children who did not attend any summer programs.

Key Findings

  • Big Lift preschoolers were 23 percentage points more likely to be kindergarten-ready than demographically similar peers who did not attend preschool, but were 8 percentage points less likely to be ready than peers who attended other community preschools.
  • Children who attended two years of Big Lift preschool were 14 percentage points more likely to be kindergarten-ready than demographically similar children who attended only one year of Big Lift preschool.
  • At the end of kindergarten, Big Lift preschoolers had higher reading scores than those of demographically similar children who did not go to preschool and had reading scores that were on par with those of children who went to other preschool programs.
  • At the start of first grade, Big Lift preschoolers had reading levels that were on par with those of demographically similar children who did not attend preschool and that were lower than those of children who attended other preschools.
  • More than 70 percent of children who attended BLIS before first or second grade maintained or improved their reading levels over the summer.
  • Within a subgroup of children from lower-income homes, children who attended BLIS in the summer after kindergarten had reading levels at the start of first grade that were higher than those of demographically similar children who did not attend any summer programs.

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 Labor.

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