NC Pre-K Children Have Greater Gains than Expected

Children in NC Pre-K are progressing at an even greater rate than expected for normal growth, according to the program’s evaluation released this week. The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill has been evaluating North Carolina’s prekindergarten program since its inception.

Students enrolled in NC Pre-K show significant gains across all areas of learning, including language and literacy skills, math skills, general knowledge, and social skills, according to FPG’s report.

NC Pre-K was designed to be a high-quality program to serve at-risk children. Since the program’s inception as “More at Four” in 2001, it has served over 255,000 four-year-olds.

“The pattern of developmental growth we found during the 2012-2013 school year is consistent with earlier findings,” said senior scientist Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, who leads the FPG team. “In general, the quality of NC Pre-K has remained relatively stable over time across many measures.”

She said that NC Pre-K also has seen steady improvement in teacher education and credentials, with a higher proportion of teachers now holding BA degrees and the appropriate licenses than in past years. “The average class size was 16 children, and most classrooms were at the highest licensing levels—four-star and five-star,” she added.

The new findings on NC Pre-K add to a growing body of evidence about the benefits of quality pre-kindergarten programs. Earlier research in North Carolina revealed that children enrolled in the state’s pre-k program continued to make gains even after leaving it. At the end of third grade, children from low-income families who had attended pre-k had higher reading and math scores on the North Carolina end-of-grade (EOG) tests than similar children who had not attended the state’s program.