What are the Effects of Full- vs. Half-Day Preschool in WPS?

  • westminster public schools where education is personal      university of colorado at boulder logo

  • Full-day preschool in Westminster Public School District (WPS) has demonstrated positive results in our initial year of implementation. Attached here is the report on Year 1 progress.

    What is the purpose of this research? 

    • WPS is exploring whether its students would be more successful in school if they had the option to attend full-day pre-kindergarten (“pre-K”), rather than the half-day option that is currently offered. It is hypothesized that the full-day schedule may be more convenient for families, may ease the transition to kindergarten, and may help build a stronger foundation for future learning. This research study will evaluate whether WPS students who attend full-day pre-K exhibit stronger achievement outcomes. The research will also help WPS and other districts decide whether they should consider expanding from half- to full-day pre-K. 

    Who is eligible to participate?

    • Any family with a young child who will be four years old by October 1 and wishes to enroll their child in full-day pre-K in WPS is eligible to apply.  

    How do I Sign Up for the Study?

    Applying for the full-day preschool lottery is a three step process.  
    1. Apply online at olr.westminsterpublicschools.org.
      1. Please be sure to select "Full Day Preschool Lottery" from the dropdown menu in the online registration.   
    2. Fill out additional forms.
      1. WPS will email links for the Early Childhood Scholarship Application, Consent Form to participate in the study, and the supplemental lottery school selection form to the email address provided on your application.
    3. WPS will inform of placement once the lottery is completed. Lottery closes April 1, 2017 and placements will be announced by June 2017.

    What are the full-day and Pre-K pilot programs?

    • WPS recently announced that it would be piloting seven brand new full-day, five days per week, preschool classrooms in the 2016-17 school year. In the past, WPS has only offered half-day pre-K, four days per week. Because slots in these classrooms are limited, WPS determines which applicants receive slots by lottery. As a result, all families with eligible 4-year old children who participate in the study have equal chance of receiving a slot in full-day pre-K. Among those who agree to be a part of the study, about 50% will be offered a slot in full-day pre-K, and the other 50% will remain in the study but instead be offered half-day pre-K. 

    Who is conducting this research?

    • WPS is collaborating with researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s School of Education to conduct a quantitative analysis of the effects of full-day pre-K on student academic achievement at the end of Pre-K, kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. Contact information for the research team is provided below.

    What are the benefits of participating in this study? 

    • Families who consent to participate in the study will be allowed to participate in WPS’s lottery of the limited full-day classroom slots in the 2017-2018 school year. There may or may not be educational benefits to full-day pre-Kindergarten—the effects are currently unknown. In addition, there will be some compensation for additional time study families spend completing study-related activities (see more below).

    What will study participants experience?

    • Randomization: Once you have learned about what this study involves, you will be asked to sign and submit a study participation consent form. Next, your child will either be randomly assigned to receive a spot in a full-day pre-K classroom in the upcoming school year (the “treatment” group), or they will be randomly assigned to not receive a spot (the “control” group). The study does not involve any observations of or interviews with your child, and your child will not interact directly with researchers. Instead, researchers will statistically analyze educational outcome data that is collected by district personnel.
    • Parent Survey: At the end of the pre-K school year, you will be asked to complete a survey (online or paper version) about your family, child, and childcare arrangements. This survey will take less than 30 minutes. To thank you for your time, parents of study children will be given a $20 cash card upon completing this survey.
    • Participation in Future Years: We want to know how the children in this study fare in the future, and so we plan to follow students as they enter the Westminster K-12 public school system. We ask your permission to obtain and analyze assessment data for your child on tests that are already administered to all students in WPS public schools. This data will be anonymized so that the research team cannot identify your particular child. Participation in grades K-3 will require no activity on your part.

    What happens for families that “win” a spot in the lottery?

    • Pre-K Experience: Lottery winners will be enrolled in full-day pre-K at the start of the upcoming school year.
    • Educational Assessments: At the start and end of the preschool year, district personnel will administer standard educational assessments designed for young children. This testing will take place during the regular school day and will require no additional time on your part.

    What happens for families that do NOT “win” in the lottery?

    • Pre-K Experience: Study participants who do not win the lottery will not be enrolled in full-day pre-K in Fall 2017. Instead, you will be allowed to enroll in the District’s existing half-day program if you wish. If you lose the lottery, you are not required to participate in the half-day program and may opt for any other childcare arrangement you wish (e.g., family care, head start, private childcare center, etc.) Regardless of this choice, those who lose the lottery still play a crucial role in the study and will be expected to continue to participate.
    • Educational Assessments: At the very start and end of the preschool year, district personnel will administer standard educational assessments designed for young children to all students in the study. For any student enrolled in the District’s half-day preschool classrooms, testing will take place within the course of the regular school day and will require no additional time on your part.
    • For families who lose the lottery and do not enroll their child in the half-day alternative, it will be necessary to bring your child to a nearby school to participate in the assessments. This will occur once in the fall (around September) and once in the spring (around May). These assessments typically take less than 30 minutes. The research team will work with study participants to find a date and time that works for you. We recognize that families with young children are very busy and that bringing your child into a nearby school site may be burdensome. To thank you for your time, study participants that lose the lottery but who do not enroll their child in half-day pre-K will be given a $100 cash card when you bring your child in at the start of the school year, and an additional $100 cash card when you bring your child in at the end of the school year.