Pre-K 4 SA four-year-olds have exceeded the national norm in three academic outcomes during the 2015-16 school year while closing significant gaps in three others, according to an annual independent study released Tuesday.

“Results indicated that although Pre-K 4 SA children started the school year significantly below the normed sample in all six outcomes, they surpassed the normed sample in three of the six outcomes (cognitive, literacy, and mathematics) by the end of the year, were not statistically different in oral language or social-emotional, and closed the gap in the physical outcome by 74%,” the study explained in its executive summary.

The study used a nationally recognized kindergarten readiness tool, Teaching Strategies GOLD, to assess growth from fall 2015 to spring 2016. Through a series of classroom observations structured around the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), the study also reported “high levels of emotional support” and “relatively high levels of classroom organization.

“Significant improvements were seen across all three domain scores since the inception of the program, and the level of quality across all three domains was above fiscal year (FY) 2015 average quality scores of the nation’s Head Start grantees,” the report stated.

Graph representing Pre-K 4 SA's performance on three domains assessed in CLASS .
Graph representing Pre-K 4 SA’s performance on three domains assessed in CLASS .

The report went on to say that “instruction appears to be based on multiple curricular resources, with daily opportunities for children to engage in active learning through varied learning settings.”

Edvance Research Inc. performed what was the third of eight planned annual studies with support from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and Rutgers University in New Jersey. See the previous two studies here.

Entering its fourth year of providing pre-school education to students who may not have otherwise entered the formal education system until kindergarten, Pre-K 4 SA is the fruit of a task-force assembled by Mayor Julián Castro in 2011 to identify a targeted program to improve educational outcomes in San Antonio, according to the organization’s website.

Since its beginning, the organization has grown from accommodating 700 to 1,700 children.

Graph representing Pre-K 4 SA's performance on three CLASS metrics compared to Head Start.
Graph representing Pre-K 4 SA’s performance on three CLASS metrics compared to Head Start.

Teacher and community investment in the school proved high as well. The majority of teachers reported feeling prepared and supported at Pre-K 4 SA, and 98% said they would continue teaching there, while 99.5% of students’ families – totaling 6,000 people – attended events hosted by the schools.

“The study shines light on the success of our children,” Pre-K 4 SA CEO Sarah Baray, who was named CEO in June, stated in a news release. “We are using a national benchmark to showcase how a community’s investment in high-quality early childhood education can improve and change education opportunities for our kids. The research provides a solid platform for continued growth.”

Pre-K 4 SA emphasizes empowering teachers to adapt to student interests as opposed to providing a standardized teacher model, stressing technologically up-to-date classrooms, and self-directed, active learning. To see a map of its four locations in the North, West, South, and Eastsides of San Antonio, click here.

“Pre-K 4 SA set out to deliver a more accessible, high quality early childhood education to San Antonio families, in particular to those who may not have had options previously,” Pre-K 4 SA Board Chair Elaine Mendoza stated in a news release. “In three years, results have shown continued improvement in both classroom quality and children’s achievement.

“We are encouraged by the results and, at the same time, are committed to continually improving our program. Ongoing measurement and optimization of instructional quality and student achievement will remain priorities as we work alongside our district partners to provide best-in-class learning to San Antonio’s four-year-olds.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Pre-K 4 SA was lagging in three of the six outcomes measured by the Teaching Strategies GOLD assessment. Two of these – oral language and social-emotional outcomes – are on par with national norms, while the physical outcome still lags slightly.

Top image: Graphic representation of three of six academic outcomes in which Pre-K 4 SA surpassed national norm. Courtesy of Pre-K 4 SA. 


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Daniel Kleifgen

Daniel Kleifgen graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., he came to San Antonio in 2013 as a Teach For America corps member.