Georgia Pre-K has served over 1.2 million children since it started in 1998, and has had strong positive effects on its participants’ literacy, math, and general knowledge skills. The program has been so successful that in 2010, the Republican state administration expanded Georgia Pre-K to include a six-week Summer Transition Program.
Georgia’s Summer Transition Program seeks to “support children’s transitions and development, particularly their early literacy skills, through the last few months before kindergarten or pre-kindergarten entry.”[i]
Rising Kindergarten (RK)
The free program is available to all low-income rising kindergartners (children who will enter kindergarten that fall), regardless of whether the children were previously enrolled in GA Pre-K. RK class size is capped at 16, and each classroom has both lead and assistant teachers as well as a transition coach. Every classroom follows the same curriculum, and features art activities for the students and professional development for the teachers.
The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill (FPG Institute) recently evaluated Georgia’s Summer Transition Program to determine how effectively it prepares students for kindergarten, and found some notable results.
“The skills of the children participating in the 2013 Rising Kindergarten Summer Transition Program generally increased during the summer. Similar gains were seen in the first three years of the program.”[ii]
After completing the six-week program, the average rising kindergartner identified two more letters in the alphabet, scored approximately 1.5 to 2.5 points higher on Individual Growth and Development Indicator Tests like picture naming and rhyming, and could count higher than she could when she entered the program. All of these skill development results were statistically significant, with moderate effect sizes. As evaluators point out, “for a six-week program to demonstrate moderate gains is somewhat unexpected, and implies a successful implementation.”[iii]
The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) rated the Rising Kindergarten classrooms very highly for Emotional Support (positive climate, teacher sensitivity, and regard for student perspective) and Classroom Organization. However, RK classrooms rated considerably lower on Instructional Support, which includes “concept development, quality of feedback, and language modeling.”[iv]
Rising Pre-K (RPre-K)
In 2013, Georgia school officials expanded the Summer program further, to include a Rising Pre-K course for children entering pre-k that fall. The Summer RPre-K program was modeled on the RK program, but specifically targeted for dual-language learning children from low-income families, who often struggle to catch up with their native English-speaking peers in pre-k and beyond. Each classroom must have one Spanish-speaking teacher, and spend some portion of every day speaking, learning, and teaching in Spanish. The program also coordinated community services for children’s families, and helped families access social service and mental health resources.
FPG Institute’s CLASS assessments rated the RPre-K classrooms very highly in Emotional Support, which is especially important for dual-language learning children; and Classroom Organization. However, while RPre-K students entered the 2013-14 pre-k school year better prepared, they still face troubling achievement gaps. The FPG Institute recommends more professional support and development for RPre-K teachers to strengthen their Instructional Support and help close the achievement gap that affects so many low-income children.
North Carolina lawmakers should take note: while we scale back our early childhood investment, our competitors are doubling down on theirs, investing in long-term competitiveness.
[i] Diane M. Early, Kelly L. Maxwell, Doré R. LaForett, Yi Pan, Syndee Kraus, Kathleen M. Hume. (May 2014). The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC. Evaluation Findings from Georgia’s 2013 Rising Kindergarten and Rising Pre-Kindergarten Summer Transition Programs. Available at http://fpg.unc.edu/node/7316
[ii] See note i.
[iii] See note i.