School Readiness


The Timing of Rating Matters

February, 2023

Quality improvement in early care and education often relies on annual classroom observations. This study examined biweekly ratings of classroom quality by teachers’ coaches over six months and found that quality varied over time. The findings suggest that the timing and number of quality ratings should inform program improvement decisions.


Leveraging Naturally Occurring Lotteries to Examine a District-Wide Rollout of Instructional Alignment Across Pre-K and Kindergarten

April, 2022
Meghan McCormick, Rebecca Unterman, Mirjana Pralica, Christina Weiland, Amanda Weissman, JoAnn Hsueh

This study investigates whether naturally occurring lotteries, which approximate random assignment, can be used to evaluate the long-term effects of instructional alignment—standards, curricula, and assessments that build on one another from pre-K to elementary school—on children in Boston Public Schools. It concludes that they can.


The Impacts of Making Pre-K Count and High 5s on Third-Grade Outcomes

December, 2021
Shira Kolnik Mattera, Robin Tepper Jacob, Cullen MacDowell, Pamela Morris

Children who received two years of early math enrichment in New York City had improved math test scores in third grade. The size of the effect is equivalent to closing about 40 percent of the achievement gap between children from families with low incomes and their peers from families with higher incomes.


Opportunities for Investing in Equity

March, 2021

This brief summarizes recent findings that show how a lack of access to high-quality summer programs may contribute to disparities in children’s learning and development during the transition to kindergarten. It identifies future research needed to ensure that equity-focused investments in summer learning pay off for children from underserved groups.

Issue Focus

Home Visiting and Coordinated and Integrated Early Childhood Systems

March, 2020

Funders at all levels are investing in programs to support expectant parents and families with young children. MDRC is conducting research in that field in three areas: integrating systems of services that work together, getting families and children the right services, and building evidence about promising models.

December, 2019

This report evaluates an early education program aimed at providing high-quality language and literacy instruction to children in underserved communities. The report examines how services delivered by senior volunteers enhanced preschoolers’ experiences in the classroom and whether this program model shows promise for improving children’s literacy and social-emotional development.


Boot Camp at Tarrant County College

November, 2019
Oscar Cerna

This study examined a “Boot Camp” program designed to reinforce basic mathematics functions for college students with limited math, reading, and writing skills, to prepare them for developmental-level courses. Three features made the program unique: computer-assisted, self-paced learning; a focus on individual learner progress; and in-class help from College-Readiness Advisors.


What Do We Know and What Are We Learning?

July, 2019

There is growing evidence that alignment between preschool and elementary school can help sustain the learning gains that children make in preschool. A new policy brief examines two large-scale, multiyear projects seeking to build rigorous evidence about the promise of aligning instruction from preschool through third grade.


Integrating Workforce and College-Readiness Training into California’s Adult Basic Skills Programs

July, 2019
Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow, Katie Beal, Chase Johnson

New models for adult education that integrate basic skills education with workforce and college-readiness training are catching on across the country. In this report, MDRC examines the development of these programs in California and suggests ways to expand these integrated models in adult basic skills programs across the state.