Pre-K 4 SA improves 3rd-grade STAAR results, has additional social outcomes, study shows

Program free for qualifying students, also accepts tuition-paying students

Credit: Pre-K 4 SA. This photo was taken in Jan. 2020

SAN ANTONIO – It’s never too early to start looking for pre-kindergarten options for your kids, and you may even be able to get free tuition if you meet the criteria.

Pre-K 4 SA is a comprehensive early childhood initiative aimed at changing the education and workforce trajectory of San Antonio in one generation.

The program offers full-day pre-kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds living in the city of San Antonio. Pre-K 4 SA is free for qualifying students and also accepts tuition-paying students.

A community impact study finalized in 2019 by the Urban Education Institute at The University of Texas at San Antonio evaluated the impact of Pre-K 4 SA on social and academic outcomes over time. The study found that Pre-K 4 SA produced positive academic outcomes for students enrolled in the first year of the program, (2013-2014 Cohort).

On average, students enrolled in Pre-K 4 SA’s initial class had stronger STAAR exam scores on third-grade reading and math, better attendance and less need for special education services than students who did not participate in public pre-kindergarten.

Director of the UTSA Urban Education Institute Dr. Mike Villarreal found early evidence that indicates high-quality pre-kindergarten can be taken to scale and effectively delivered through a public system.

“The initial results of the Pre-K 4 SA Impact Study suggest that the program created a surge of awareness about the value of early childhood education, expanding the number of students enrolled in prekindergarten across San Antonio,” Villarreal said. “Not only does this study show the success of Pre-K 4 SA’s model education centers, but it also highlights the ripple effects across public pre-kindergarten programs, which have been supported by Pre-K 4 SA’s Competitive Grants Program and Professional Learning Department. Our findings suggest that San Antonio’s investment in quality early education had a positive effect even beyond those children who enrolled in the model centers.”

[Related: Free full-day schooling available for qualified students in area Pre-K program]

Evidence suggests Pre-K 4 SA caused an increase in public prekindergarten enrollment of 9.07 percentage points since the 2012 election. The study found that Pre-K 4 SA amplified the positive impact of public prekindergarten.

Attendance is directly linked to school funding, as well as student success. The study estimates San Antonio public schools received approximately $17.4 million more in funding due to increased attendance of students who enrolled in Pre-K 4 SA ($3.9 million) and the increased public pre-K population that followed the Pre-K 4 SA 2012 election ($13.5 million).

Additionally, the study found that Pre-K 4 SA made the largest difference for those students identified as economically disadvantaged or limited in English proficiency.

The benefit of Pre-K 4 SA was most dramatic for economically disadvantaged students, significantly narrowing the achievement gap. Pre-K 4 SA produced a stronger impact on raising third-grade math scores. Historically, San Antonio students (of similar demographics) have also trailed behind the state average in third-grade math. Those who participated in Pre-K 4 SA exceeded the state average, according to preliminary findings.

“The board is committed to delivering the results our community was promised,” said Elaine Mendoza, Pre-K 4 SA board chair. “The outcomes of this impact study are encouraging and demonstrate Pre-K 4 SA has long-term positive results for students in San Antonio. We are particularly excited to see the broader impact of Pre-K 4 SA on attendance and special education. While we are optimistic, we will stay focused and hold Sarah (Baray) and her team accountable for innovative approaches and advances for student success year over year.”

Because of its effect on attendance, San Antonio schools have so far seen a $23.2 million gain in school funding. The impact study, conducted by the Urban Education Institute at The University of Texas at San Antonio, was designed to evaluate the impact of Pre-K 4 SA on social and academic outcomes over time.

The Pre-K 4 SA Competitive Grants program provides more than $4 million in funding annually to increase quality and access in early childhood programs throughout San Antonio.

To learn more about Pre-K 4 SA, click here.