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Closer to home: More equitable pre-k access and enrollment in Chicago

As pre-kindergarten (pre-k) expands across the country, school districts are making choices about where to place pre-k classrooms and developing policies for how families can apply and which children are enrolled. In doing so, districts are pulling policy levers that influence students' access to pre-k. Research shows that some families have less access to pre-k than others, which contributes to inequitable enrollment within districts. This descriptive study explores whether and how Chicago's school-based pre-k system was more equitable after the district implemented a set of policies focused on changing access to and enrollment in school-based pre-k. Specifically, we compare patterns of enrollment and geographic access (i.e., distance from home to a school with pre-k and number of pre-k classrooms nearby), and use multilevel logistic regression analyses to examine how access was related to enrollment for different student groups before and after the policy changes. Results show that both access to, and enrollment in, full-day pre-k expanded substantially among Black students, lowest-income students, and students living in mostly-Black neighborhoods, even as overall school-based pre-k enrollment remained relatively constant. There was a modest association between access to and enrollment in full-day pre-k (but not any pre-k), and this relationship became stronger following the policy changes, especially for high-priority student groups. Findings demonstrate that the geographic distribution of school-based pre-k (particularly full-day) may be an important policy lever for addressing inequities in student access and enrollment in Chicago, and have implications for other school districts implementing similar efforts nationwide. (author abstract)
Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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