Lipsey, M.W., Farran, D.C., & Hofer, K.G. (2015) A Randomized Control Trial of a Statewide Voluntary Prekindergarten Program on Children's Skills and Behaviors through Third Grade (Research Report). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University, Peabody Research Institute.
A multi-year study Tennessee's prekindergarten program for children from low-income families shows that children started off school strong, but by kindergarten were generally indistinguishable academically from comparable peers who did not enroll in the program. By 3rd grade the children who attended pre-K were performing worse on some academic and behavioral measures than similar classmates who were never in the program. Both groups — the children who attended the Tennessee program, as well as the children who did not — were lagging behind national norms. All the children in the study come from low-income families and often attend low-performing public schools that may experience high student mobility, difficulty recruiting and retaining high-performing teachers, and insufficient resources to build on any pre-K gains. The quality of the individual prekindergarten classrooms may also be a factor in why the children performed so poorly in the tests, researchers said.