Examining research on the Big Lift preschool initiative
Celia J. Gomez and colleagues from the RAND Corporation have released a new research brief that examines Big Lift, a preschool to third-grade initiative designed to boost literacy skills and ensure that children are reading proficiently by third grade. The initiative has been implemented in seven school districts in San Mateo County, California, that have below-average third-grade reading levels. According to the brief, Big Lift seeks to improve third-grade reading through a set of four coordinated and integrated "pillars": High-Quality Preschool, Summer Learning, School Attendance, and Family Engagement.
 
The researchers have examined outcomes for two cohorts of students: Cohort 1 includes students in four districts who receive Big Lift services, and Cohort 2 an additional three districts. Data sources include early childhood cognitive assessments, kindergarten and first-grade entry forms completed by parents, and the San Mateo County Office of Education's countywide data system.
 
The current research brief is part of a multiphase evaluation of Big Lift, and reports on findings after two years of implementation. Key findings are as follows:
  • Big Lift preschoolers in the 2017-2018 kindergarten class were better prepared for kindergarten than demographically similar peers who did not attend preschool - but they were less prepared than similar peers who attended non-Big Lift preschool programs.
  • Children who attended two years of Big Lift preschool were more kindergarten-ready than similar peers who attended only one year.
  • In the 2016-2017 kindergarten class, Big Lift preschoolers had reading levels at the end of kindergarten and the start of first grade that were on par with similar peers who attended other preschool programs and higher than similar peers who attended no preschool at all.

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