Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Public and Private Prekindergarten Programs: A Comparison of Student Readiness

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Public and Private Prekindergarten Programs: A Comparison of Student Readiness

Article excerpt

In this study, the relationship of prekindergarten program type (public and private), geographic location (urban and rural), gender, and ethnicity (Caucasians and African-Americans) to the kindergarten readiness levels of four-year-old students was investigated Multivariate analysis of variance procedures, conducted on Iowa Tests of Basic Skills Reading, Language, and Math scores of 695 kindergarten students, revealed that Caucasian students outperformed African-American students in all three areas, albeit the effect size was small. No other statistically significant relationships were present. Because we were able to ascertain the socioeconomic status of our participants, readers are urged to be cautious in the extent to which they generalize our tentative findings. That is, our findings could be interpreted as poverty-related rather than related to ethnicity. Recommendations for future research are discussed.

As interest in early childhood education has increased nationwide, a strong interest in early childhood education programs has been demonstrated in the state of Georgia. For example, Head Start programs for preschool-age children have been implemented throughout the state. More recently, governmental and educational leaders have recognized the importance of the first national goal of Goals 2000 by establishing a voluntary prekindergarten program for four-year-old children. To establish the program in 1992, monies were allocated from state funds and a pilot prekindergarten program for low-income four-year-old children was developed. For initial implementation, the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) requested proposals from any public school system or child care agency in the state that wished to apply for funding to develop a local program (Quay, Kaufman-McMurrain, Steele, & Minore, 1997).

To become a prekindergarten program site, state lottery-funded prekindergarten programs in Georgia must now be approved by the Office of School Readiness (OSR). Any public school system, public/private non-profit agency, or private for-profit provider in the state who meets the guidelines is eligible for funding (Georgia DOE, 1996). Therefore, differences may exist among delivery systems, in interpretations of curricula and program guidelines, and in interpretations of criteria requirements for personnel. Local program providers may choose one of five curricula models or use a locally developed curriculum model approved by the OSR. Furthermore, early childhood education personnel who are responsible for planning and implementing the prekindergarten program are not required to be certified in early childhood education as defined by the Professional Standards Commission (PSC), the agency that oversees the licensing of all certified school personnel in the state of Georgia (Georgia DOE, 1996).


Historically, prekindergarten programs in America have been supported by both private and federal funds. Federally supported prekindergarten programs were established to help poor families, unemployed parents, working parents, and disadvantaged children (Karweit, 1988). According to Zigler and Styfco (1994), federal funds for prekindergarten programs increased in 1964 when the EOA was passed, the War on Poverty began, and Project Head Start was developed. The federal cost for each child enrolled in a Head Start program in 1994 was $4,345 with appropriated funds for the 1995 fiscal year of $3.5 billion. Federal funds appropriated for Head Start programs were used for 80% of the cost of operations and the other 20% of costs was provided by state and local funding (The Future of Children, 1995). Head Start programs have been provided for 14,594,000 children since the program began in 1965 (Zigler & Styfco, 1994).

Although federal funding of prekindergarten programs increased with the passing of the EOA, the majority of prekindergarten programs were operated by private agencies. …

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