Fairfax PreK to Third Grade Project


The Fairfax Prek to Third Grade Project (FP3) is a partnership between the University of Virginia, Fairfax County Public Schools, and the Fairfax Office for Children. The study is designed to uncover classroom, program, and school factors that create and sustain children’s success from preschool to third grade.

Current studies indicate that while public early education has great promise for improving children's learning, typical early childhood education programs do not consistently deliver on this promise. For example, some studies have shown that half of low-income children are not ready for the first day of kindergarten (Isaacs, 2012) and in a nationally representative sample, teachers reported that only 27% of children met expectations for literacy and math at school entry (Bernstein, West, Newsham, & Reid, 2014). Other evaluations suggest that Pre-K has small effects that can fade over time and may be undetectable by third grade (Camilli, Vargus, Ryan, & Barnett, 2010; Puma et al., 2012). 

Using a rigorous analysis across multiple points of data, the FP3 project will identify experiences in early learning and elementary programs that foster children’s development in pre-k, transition into kindergarten, and performance through third grade. 

There are three key components of this study:

  • A descriptive study of systems-level policies and practices that support learning and school achievement
  • A classroom observation study to identify malleable factors that are associated with children’s school readiness skills and school achievement. 
  • A longitudinal study of low-income children across PK-3 to identify malleable factors associated with early learning and school achievement over time

Status: Fall 2016 – Spring 2021

Funding Source: US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Principle Investigators: Robert C. Pianta (PI), Jessica Whittaker, (Co-PI), and Virginia Vitiello (Co- PI)

Project Partners: Fairfax County Public Schools and Fairfax Office for Children

  • Publications & Presentations

    Ansari, A., Pianta, R. C., Whittaker, J. V., Vitiello, V. E., & Ruzek, E. A. (2020). Persistence and convergence: The end of kindergarten outcomes of pre-K graduates and their nonattending peers. Developmental Psychology, 56(11), 2027–2039. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0001115

    Pianta, R. C., Whittaker, J., Vitiello, V., Ansari, A. & Ruzek, E. (2018). Classroom process and practices in public pre-k programs: Describing and predicting educational opportunities in the early learning sector. Early Education and Development, 29(6), 797-813. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2018.1483158

    Vitiello, V. E., Pianta, R. C., Whittaker, J. E., & Ruzek, E. (2020). Alignment and misalignment of classroom experiences from pre-k to kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 52, 44-56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2019.06.014

    Pianta, R. C. Whittaker, J. E., Vitiello, V., Ruzek, E., Ansari, A., Hofkens, T., & DeCoster, J. (2020) Children’s school readiness skills across the pre-K year: Associations with teacher-student interactions, teacher practices, and exposure to academic content. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 66(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2019.101084