Fischler College of Education: Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Linda K. Gaughan

Committee Member

Donald C. Lueder


Children from low-income families often begin kindergarten at an academic disadvantage. This research consisted of a causal comparative study of the short-term and longer term academic effects of voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) participation with a population of students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch in a large southern public school district.

Reading and math achievement of low-income students who attended VPK in 2008-09 were compared with a matched sample of students who did not attend. Incremental changes following the 2008-09 prekindergarten year to the cohort’s and matched sample’s 2012-13 third-grade academic performance were compared via archived kindergarten, first-, second-, and third-grade test scores, ratings, and promotion status at the end of third grade.

Additional analyses were made to test for any differences between program length for the VPK and non-VPK attenders. Analyses were also conducted to see if the effects of VPK persisted through the early school years as measured by school type (Title I or non-Title I).

Short-term and longer term effects in favor of VPK participation were found for kindergarten, first, and third graders who attended summer or full-year programs and a Title I school for 1 to 3 years of their academic career during the 4-year period examined. However, those students who attended VPK but who did not attend any Title I school from kindergarten to third grade did not perform better statistically than matched students who did not attend VPK.

It is recommended that full-year prekindergarten programs be considered for students likely to attend high-poverty schools. Reading readiness and achievement were significantly higher for the students attending high-poverty schools if they previously attended full-year prekindergarten programs.