Early Evidence Suggests KIPP Pre-Kindergarten Programs Have Lasting Positive Impacts on Student Achievement

KIPP DC LEAP pre-K classroom

August 22, 2017 – Washington, DC – According to a new study by Mathematica Policy Research, KIPP pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) programs have positive, persistent impacts on student achievement. Although some studies have shown that the impacts of pre-K programs fade—or disappear—over time, this study suggests that the impacts of KIPP public charter schools’ pre-K programs may be more lasting.

To measure the combined impact of KIPP pre-K and early elementary grades, the researchers followed students who entered randomized lotteries for KIPP pre-K programs and examined their performance five years later, when the students were typically in second grade. To isolate the additional benefit of KIPP pre-K, the researchers compared these impacts to the impacts of KIPP elementary schools that did not offer pre-K. The study concluded that KIPP public charter schools’ pre-K programs have a positive impact on students’ academic and cognitive skills that persists into second grade.

“Together, KIPP pre-K and KIPP elementary school had large positive impacts on student achievement in reading and math,” explains Virginia Knechtel, a researcher at Mathematica. “KIPP pre-K appears to offer an additional benefit beyond the impact of KIPP elementary school alone and may be one model for how pre-K programming can be structured and aligned with later educational approaches to produce lasting benefits.”

In 2004, the KIPP network of public charter schools started its first pre-K program in Houston. This study focused on KIPP pre-K programs in Houston and Washington, DC, to measure the impact of these programs on student learning. Mathematica researchers also used data from KIPP kindergarten programs in Newark, New York City, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles for their analysis.

“We know from first-hand experience that KIPP pre-K is making a difference for children and families here in Houston, and we’re pleased to see external research from Mathematica that affirms the value of these programs,” said Sehba Ali, Superintendent of KIPP Houston. “Starting a KIPP education early can put children on the path towards long term success in college and life, even for our youngest KIPP students.”

Key findings include the following:

  • KIPP pre-K has a significant positive impact on student achievement: After five years, students who won an offer of admission to a KIPP pre-K program through a random lottery had higher reading and math achievement than pre-K students who did not win an offer. For example, the study showed that scores on the Letter-Word Identification (reading skills) assessment improved by nearly 14 percentage points, moving KIPP pre-K students from the 66th to the 80th percentile. On the Applied Problems (math skills) assessment, KIPP pre-K students moved from roughly the 47th to the 60th percentile.
  • KIPP early childhood programs may help students gain executive functioning skills: KIPP pre-K combined with KIPP early elementary school may also positively affect students’ executive function, including their working memory and ability to follow instructions, although most findings were not significant. Executive function skills are widely believed to be related to students’ long-term academic success.
  • KIPP pre-K appears to offer an additional benefit above and beyond the impact of the KIPP elementary grades: The reading impacts of KIPP elementary schools that offered pre-K were larger than those of KIPP elementary schools that did not offer pre-K, although the differences were not statistically significant.
  • The impact of KIPP pre-K on reading skills persists into second grade: Students who won an offer of admission to KIPP pre-K appear to maintain an advantage in reading skills over their second-grade peers who did not win an offer. The size of their advantage in reading comprehension appears to decrease, but not disappear, over time. Although some studies show that the positive impacts of some pre-K and other early childhood programs eventually decrease or disappear, this study suggests that the combination of KIPP pre-K and KIPP early elementary school may have more lasting impacts.

The study, funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, also identifies specific features of KIPP pre-K programs that may contribute to the programs’ lasting impacts, such as the academic focus, the coaching and feedback provided to program staff, and the alignment of pre-K and elementary grade programming. These findings build on a 2015 report showing that KIPP elementary schools had positive impacts on students’ reading and math skills after three years.

About Mathematica Policy Research:

Mathematica is a pioneering nonpartisan research organization dedicated to improving public well-being. Our 1,200+ experts conduct policy research, data collection, and data analytics that meet the highest standards of quality and objectivity, working with decision makers across the public and private sectors.

About KIPP:

KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national network of 209 public charter schools that are dedicated to preparing students in educationally underserved communities for success in college and life. KIPP schools are part of the free public school system and enrollment is open to all students. Started in 1994 as a middle school program, KIPP has since expanded to enroll students in all grades from pre-K through high school.

Mathematica Contact: Jennifer de Vallance

KIPP Contact: Steve Mancini