Agenda, Scope, and Goals
Three core projects are planned. In each case, the focus will be on four-year-olds who are scheduled to enter kindergarten in the next academic year. Special efforts will be made to recruit and engage a significant percentage of children from low-income families or whose home language is not English, so that we can understand program effectiveness for children who may be especially vulnerable to lagging behind their peers in school readiness and later achievement.
ExCEL P-3: Promoting Sustained Gains from Preschool to Third Grade. The Boston Public Schools have begun phasing in what will be a system-wide integrated curriculum that emphasizes the need for instruction in each grade to build on the lessons and skills that children learned in the previous grade. MDRC is conducting a study that will provide especially rich data on the effect of the aligned instruction, while also exploring other potential influences on sustaining preschool gains.
ExCEL Quality: Improving Preschool Instruction through Curricula, Coaching, and Training. This demonstration addresses a critical decision that goes to the heart of program effectiveness: selection of the best combination of curricula and professional development to improve teacher practices and child outcomes. In four localities, we plan to compare the implementation, impact, and cost effectiveness of: (1) a “business-as-usual” control condition that reflects the localities’ current mix of curricula and standard professional development; (2) a widely used comprehensive curriculum supported by intensive professional development; and (3) evidence-based curricular enhancements, such as those focused on literacy and math, delivered together with the support of intensive professional development.
ExCEL Summer: Boosting School Readiness through a Summer Enrichment Program. This study in two localities will show whether an academic boost from a six-week school readiness program in the summer right before kindergarten is a cost-effective way to improve outcomes (and prevent summer learning loss) for children who have been in preschool during the regular school year. The summer program will also be tested for children who were not in a preschool program during the regular academic year, to show whether the short-term intervention can help these children catch up to their peers who did attend preschool programs during the academic year.