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Downer Collaborates with VA Researchers to Study Long-Term Effects of Preschool Attendance


Jason Downer, Director of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL), along with researchers from James Madison University, Virginia Tech, and George Mason University, secured funding from 4-VA, a consortium created by the four institutions in order to foster inter-university collaborations. The team, in partnership with the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, will be examining the effects of public pre-k attendance on the outcomes of 3,466 eighth grade students. 

The study will compare academic and non-academic outcomes for a cohort of at-risk children who attended public preschool programs to a similar group of students who did not. Earlier research conducted with the same cohort during their third grade year showed positive effects of pre-k attendance on students’ state test scores.

The team will disseminate their findings to key state lawmakers and stakeholders in order to inform decisions related to early childhood education. “If the students who attended pre-k demonstrate continued benefits on measures like grade promotion and test scores, it would further bolster the argument that the state should invest in early childhood programs,” Downer said. 

The researchers hope to lay the foundation for future studies that follow the students as they progress through high school and into higher education and their adult lives.

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