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Results

Research and Results about Focus on Early Learning

(last update: 7/5/2018)

We encourage practitioners to use formative data and assessment to improve instruction (see our Assessment page), and do the same to assess our own work. This helps us get results that show that we close racial and income gaps in Kindergarten, and that our Pre-K program has some of the largest effects seen to date.


We measure the success of Focus on Early Learning in four ways:

  • Biannual independent evaluations and district-mandated assessments that evaluate each child’s growth.

  • Formative assessments which help teachers track student progress.

  • Findings from the ExCEL study, a five-year longitudinal study funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences to evaluate all aspects of our program from Pre-K through third grade. These findings provide further longer-term evidence around the effectiveness of our Pre-K (K1) program and help the Department of Early Childhood identify how to further improve our curriculum and the supports we provide our educators. Nationally, this study will help understand the challenges of sustaining the Pre-K gains.

  • Feedback from teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators.

Below you will find information on our landmark Pre-K study, how we achieve strong student outcomes in the short-term, how we sustain the gains over the long-term, and finally, selected research articles about our work.

Interested in more, or seeing Focus on Early Learning in action? Contact us!


Large Pre-K Impact in the Boston Public Schools (Harvard study)

"According to the study, Impacts of a Prekindergarten Program on Children’s Mathematics, Language, Literacy, Executive Function, and Emotional Skills (Child Development, 2013), more than 2,000 children enrolled in the BPS program have shown improvements in children’s language, literacy, math, executive function (the ability to regulate, control, and manage one’s thinking and actions), and emotional development skills citywide. Some of the study’s findings on the effects of the program are the largest found to date in evaluations of large-scale public prekindergarten programs." (Harvard Press Release)


Closing the Achievement Gap

Internal and independent studies reveal that enrolling in BPS earlier than kindergarten (K2) has positive effects on student performance in both the short and long terms. The positive effects of Pre-K (K1) programs on student achievement apply to all students, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities.

The internal BPS study relies on results from the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment. Among the highlights (taken from the press release):

  • Participation in the BPS Pre-K program closes Kindergarten racial and income achievement gaps as measured by DIBELS:

    • Black and Hispanic/Latino students who participate in BPS Pre-K outperform white students who do not participate in Pre-K; and

    • Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch who participate in BPS Pre-Koutperform students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunch and who do not participate in BPS Pre-K.

  • Upon entering Kindergarten, students who participated in the BPS Pre-K program were 50% more likely to be “ready for kindergarten”than students who did not participate, as measured by the benchmark assessment tests offered at the start of the school year. Seventy-six percent of students who participated in BPS Pre-Kprograms scored at or above benchmark upon entering Kindergarten, compared to 51 percent of students who did not participate.

  • Only 11 percent of students who participated in BPS Pre-K programs were “well below benchmark” at the beginning of their Kindergarten school year, compared to 30 percent of students who did not participate in Pre-K.

  • According to the study, the academic improvements were even more dramatic for African-American and Hispanic/Latino students:

    • 80 percent of African-American students who participated in the BPS Pre-K program reached benchmark levels upon entering Kindergarten, compared to 56 percent of students who did not.

    • 70 percent of Hispanic/Latino students who participated in the BPS Pre-K program reached benchmark levels upon entering Kindergarten, compared to 39 percent who did not.

The study also examined results by socioeconomic and disability status:

  • Among students who qualified for free-or-reduced-price lunch, 71 percent who participated in a BPS Pre-K program scored at or above benchmark when they entered Kindergarten, compared to 46 percent who did not.

  • Among students who have a disability, 57 percent who participated in a BPS Pre-K program scored at or above benchmark when they entered Kindergarten, compared to 41 percent who did not.


Sustaining the Gains - Overcoming the "Fade Out Effect"

Students who attended our BPS Pre-K program outperform their peers on standardized state tests, years after their Pre-K attendance. This is counter to the "fade out effect" in which gains made in the Pre-K year appear to disappear quickly, in some cases in as little as a a year. See the tables below, and click here for a more detailed look at grade 3.

 Students who attended BPS Pre-K outperformed their peers on the state mathematics exam in grade 5.

Students who attended BPS Pre-K outperformed their peers on the state mathematics exam in grade 5.

 Students who attended BPS Pre-K outperformed their peers on the state English Language Arts (ELA) exam in grade 3.

Students who attended BPS Pre-K outperformed their peers on the state English Language Arts (ELA) exam in grade 3.


Selected Research Articles about Our Work