The Benefits of Pre-K: What the Research Shows

July 17, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

What is universal pre-kindergarten? 

Pre-kindergarten refers to programs that provide a year of education prior to entry into kindergarten. Universal programs are voluntary state programs that are open to all age-eligible children. Currently, the majority of state-funded Pre-K programs are targeted programs that primarily serve at-risk children (usually based on low family income).

How does Pre-K benefit children?

Research shows that Pre-K programs are typically of higher quality than other preschools or center-based programs and that Pre-K children are better prepared for school (Barnett 2008, Magnuson 2007).

For states that have already implemented universal Pre-K, the results have been impressive. 
  • Studies of Oklahoma’s Pre-K program find significant effects on test scores, language development, and motor skills at kindergarten entry (Gormley 2005).
  • Early gains were still detectable in 3rd grade (Hill 2012).
  • An evaluation of Georgia’s Pre-K program found that participants had stronger cognitive and language skills in kindergarten than children who did not attend (Henry 2006).


The benefits of Pre-K are not limited to test scores.

Children who receive high-quality Pre-K have:

  • better attendance
  • fewer behavior problems
  • increased chances of reading at grade level in 4th grade (Hill 2006, Gormley 2011).
Tennessee’s targeted Pre-K program has been shown to boost school readiness. 
  • An ongoing independent evaluation has found that during the year before kindergarten, Pre-K children develop literacy, language, and math skills faster than non-participating children.
  • Gains made by Pre-K children are 37 to 176 percent greater than those of non-Pre-K children and persist into the elementary grades.
  • When they begin kindergarten, Pre-K children are rated more highly than their peers on teachers’ assessments of school readiness (Lipsey 2011, SRG 2008).

How does Pre-K benefit communities?

How does universal, state-funded Pre-K compare to other programs?

Download full brief (PDF, 07/2014)

Sanctuary Model

July 7, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

In 1980, Sandra Bloom, M.D. and colleagues developed a trauma-informed program for adults called Sanctuary. The Sanctuary Model is a blueprint for organizational change that promotes safety, healing, and recovery from chronic stress and adversity by creating a trauma-informed community. Exposure to trauma, adversity, and chronic stress are universal experiences affecting individuals, families, organizations, and entire systems and can be dangerous to our physical, psychological, and social well-being.

Understanding that trauma is prevalent is the basis of the Sanctuary Model. Not only on the people who seek treatment, but also on the people and organizations who provide that treatment. Over time organizations may become traumatized themselves, actually creating more stress and adversity, rather than less.


Download full brief (PDF, 07/2014)

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Positive role models in a child’s neighborhood are linked to school success in Memphis, TN.

June 23, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /
When parents feel like their neighbors are positive role models, their children reach kindergarten “more ready” to take on the task of early reading.

There are many resources that can help to support families with young children. Some resources, such as health insurance, sufficient nutrition, and books and toys, can support healthy early childhood development directly. Other resources, such as a safe home, help to support a family’s well-being, and reduce a child’s exposure to chaos and toxic stress. There is also a third category of resources that are not tied to a family’s income.


These include the set of relationships and informal resources that a family can draw upon in times of need. For some families, these informal relationships provide a source of support. The help of extended family, neighbors, and friends can offer a safety net and provide an important resource to families. Collectively, these informal relationships are considered a large component of a family’s level of “social capital.”

The influence of having an informal network of interpersonal resources has been well documented on a range of outcomes for individuals and for communities. When neighbors keep a watch out for each other and keep a protective eye on each other’s homes and property, for example, not only do residents feel safer, but by objective measures, crime actually is lower in those neighborhoods.

If these informal resources are important for family well-being, is it possible that they also support early childhood development? In turn, do they help to support school readiness?

Our findings are striking: when parents feel like their neighbors are positive role models, their children reach kindergarten “more ready” to take on the task of early reading.

These findings help to strengthen our understanding of the ways that neighborhood characteristics can matter for early childhood well-being. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and this is particularly true for families trying to juggle the many demands of modern life. Having a neighbor or friend to count on for help can make a tremendous difference for families, including better outcomes for their children.

Read more in our full brief.


Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-02)

Contributing Authors: Marie Sell, Doug Imig, Shahin Samiei
A Partnership between The Urban Child Institute and Shelby County Schools

Durham Connects Home Visitation Program

June 17, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

The Durham Connects (DC) program is a universal newborn nurse home-visiting program. It has been developed with a focus on increasing community capacity while delivering individual services to all families. It is designed to be brief and inexpensive ($700 per birth), and is delivered universally in order to achieve high penetration and population impact, as families do not perceive participation as stigmatizing. Implemented universally from the start, the program avoids decreases in fidelity and impact reported by targeted home visiting programs after scaling-up from smaller randomized controlled trials.

Measured Outcomes
  • Greater Community Connections
  • Utilization of Higher Quality Child Care
  • Higher Quality Parenting Behaviors
  • Higher Quality Home Environments
  • Better Mother Mental Health
  • Reduced Emergency Medical Care for Infants
  • Reduced Infant Emergency Hospital Emergency Care at Age 12-Months


Download full brief (PDF, 06/2014)

Books from Birth participation in Shelby County is linked to stronger reading performance in second grade.

May 23, 2014 / Local Data / 0 Comments /
Prior findings: Kindergarten entry

Children who participated in the Books from Birth program prior to kindergarten entry had statistically higher kindergarten readiness scores in language and mathematics than children not enrolled in the program.

Follow-up: Second grade

Our analysis indicates that students who had participated in the Books from Birth program prior to kindergarten entry had higher scores in reading development in second grade, compared to students who had not participated.

BfB children are more likely to be in the strongest tier and least likely to be in the weakest tier of readers in 2nd grade.

Significant differences in vocabulary and reading comprehension

The two subtests most fundamentally linked to early reading experiences are the two that showed significant differences between BfB participants and non-participants, namely vocabulary and reading comprehension.

The BfB advantage remains after we control for other factors associated with reading development

These findings are not a result of group differences in socioeconomic status or gender.

Read more in our full brief.


Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-01)

Contributing Authors: Marie Sell, Doug Imig, Shahin Samiei
A Partnership between The Urban Child Institute and Shelby County Schools

Social Impact Bonds – An Introduction

May 15, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) are an innovative funding model that uses private sector capital to solve pressing social problems. SIBs have a double bottom-line: they offer investors the opportunity to make a significant social impact alongside a financial return.

SIBs are also known as “pay for success” bonds. Investors are repaid if the initiative succeeds. SIBs are entirely based upon performance, so their rates of return vary.

Interventions supported by SIBs, such as pre-kindergarten, are carefully chosen based on the evidence-base, and are carefully monitored. Data is collected across the life of the SIB, allowing for an accurate and rigorous evaluation.


Download Brief (PDF, 05/2014)

Delta Health Alliance continues to provide a greatly needed service to families in the Indianola community through the Leflore Parents as Teachers Program.

May 5, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

In 2013, the Delta Health Alliance Parents as Teachers (PAT) program assisted 91 Leflore County families in great need. This program sends a trained parent educator to each participating family’s home each month to offer support and assistance to new mothers and their infants and young children. In the past year, parent educators completed 1,112 personal visits.

Here are some highlights of PAT program gains over the past year:
  • More healthy birthweight babies and improved birth outcomes.
  • Improved rates of childhood immunization.
  • Healthy development of young children, supporting the health and well-being of the mothers of those children. Over 83% of child participants in the PAT program are developmentally on target across all five domains of development – communication skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, problem solving skills, and personal social skills.
  • Much needed social support provided to new and expectant mothers to support their coping skills, their care-giving skills, and their long-term strategizing skills.
In the Delta, PAT returns $3.80 for every dollar invested.
Meanwhile, we also identified several key domains where additional programmatic efforts are needed.

Download Report (PDF, 04-2014)

An Evaluation by Memphis Data Partners.

The Wraparound process

March 17, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

Of the most common team-based planning models (Child Welfare: Family Group Decision Making; Juvenile Justice: Restorative Justice Teams; Developmental Disabilities: Person Centered Planning; Education: Positive Behavioral Support Teams; Spirit and Healing Circles; and Integrated Systems: Wraparound), the Wraparound process is the most developed and the most researched. It shows that children and youth can be served within their communities, in their family homes, and in a manner that respects the dignity and importance of the family.

The Wraparound process is
  • A way to improve the lives of children and youth with complex needs and their families so that they can live in their homes and communities and realize their hopes and dreams.
  • Not a treatment, type of service, or a program.
  • Characterized by a plan that is developed by a family-centered team, individualized based on the strengths and culture of the child and their family, and is needs rather than services driven.


Download Brief (PDF, 2014-04)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Resilience

March 17, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

Since the ACE study (1995-97), a joint project between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, research has shown that childhood trauma damages a child’s brain, impairing its development and function. These adverse childhood experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death, as well as poor quality of life.
The ACE Study looked at ten different kinds of childhood trauma, in three different categories:

  1. Abuse: Emotional, Physical, Sexual
  2. Neglect: Emotional, Physical
  3. Household Dysfunction: Mother Treated Violently, Household Substance Abuse, Household Mental Illness, Parental Separation, Divorce, Incarcerated Household Member

The more ACEs scored, the higher the chances for social and health problems, both short- and long-term.

As a result of the findings of this study, individuals and organizations, including schools, medical practices, and hospitals, as well as entire communities have been putting ACE/Trauma-informed practices in place. They have realized that the nation’s worst health and social problems may benefit from understanding that these problems could well be consequences of ACEs. Their efforts are geared to building resilience to counteract ACEs and strengthen families.


Download Brief (PDF, 04/2014)

Interventions for students at the greatest risk for academic failure.

March 17, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /
  • Finishing High School: Alternative Pathways and Dropout Recovery
  • 15 Effective Strategies for Dropout Prevention
  • Preventing Future High School Dropouts
  • Dropout Prevention Practice Guide
  • Mentoring At-risk Youth: Improving Academic Achievement in Middle School Students
  • The Impact of Mentoring on Academic Achievement of At-risk Youth


Download Brief (PDF, 04/2014)