EdPolicyWorks Working Paper: Effects of Preschool on Retention

Full Title: The Effects of Universal Preschool on Grade Retention

Full Abstract: Nationwide, the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state-supported preschool programs has more than doubled since the early 2000s as states dramatically increased their investments in early childhood education. Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program (VPK), which began in 2005, has been a national leader with respect to preschool access. This paper provides the first evidence of the program’s impacts. We measure the effect of VPK participation on the likelihood children are retained at any point between kindergarten and third grade. Employing an instrumental variables approach, we leverage local program expansion and detailed student-level data on eight cohorts of children, four who were preschool-age in the years before VPK was implemented and four who had access to VPK programs. The results indicate that VPK did not lead to changes in the likelihood children complete the third grade without ever being retained. We do find that VPK led to a change in the timing of retention. Specifically, the program led to a drop in the likelihood children were retained during the kindergarten year, but this drop was counteracted by increases in retention in subsequent school years. Implications for policy are discussed.

Authors: Luke C. Miller & Daphna Bassok

EdPolicyWorks Working Paper Series No. 57. September 2017.