Created in 2016, Alaska’s Pre-Elementary Grants (PEGs) allow school districts to design, develop, and expand affordable and accessible preschool in their communities. PEGs aim, in particular, to serve historically disadvantaged students. This study aimed to help Alaska stakeholders better understand how districts implemented the grants and what were the characteristics and outcomes of children who participated in PEG programs. Based on analyses of documents, interviews, and administrative data, the study found that PEG districts served a higher proportion of Alaska Native students, English learner students, and students in rural remote schools than did non-PEG districts and that these differences increased between 2016/17 and 2018/19 as more districts received funding. PEG districts used the program’s flexibility primarily to provide or support part-day preschool. In addition, students’ participation in state-funded preschool between 2013/14 and 2017/18, including PEG participation, was positively related to kindergarten readiness, kindergarten and grade 2 English language proficiency, kindergarten and grade 1 attendance, and grade 3 assessment scores in math but not to grade 3 assessment scores in reading. The study findings have important implications for Alaska’s efforts to expand preschool and might also be of interest to other predominantly rural states that are considering similar efforts. Specifically, the implementation findings can help practitioners, program directors, and state agency staff members in Alaska provide more targeted support to districts and modify the grant program in future years. The promising findings on the relationship between PEG participation and student outcomes point to the need for more rigorous research on this topic—an effort that would benefit from improved data collection. (author abstract)
State-funded preschool in the last frontier: Alaska’s Pre-Elementary Grant program
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