The results are in, and they’re promising — especially for advocates of school choice.
Such was the finding of a two-year study of public funding for private preschool programs announced by Governor Ralph Northam’s office on Tuesday.
The heart of the report is buried deeply in academic research speak, but the gist is clear — children who attended private preschool programs did just as well as those who attended public programs under the Virginia Preschool Initiative.
“The results of the study show a significant amount of promise for the Mixed Delivery Preschool Pilot Program and for the broader implementation of a mixed delivery public preschool model in Virginia,” the report states.
An evaluation of “mixed delivery,” or education at public and private institutions funded by tax dollars, started in 2016, when the General Assembly passed legislation authorizing the funding and a Republican bill laying out how the funds should be spent.
Two separate “cohorts” of students were created using two separate grants in localities all around the Commonwealth. The findings for students were encouraging for supporters of “child centric” rather than “school centric” funding models.
“The pilot project provides evidence that mixed delivery approaches hold great promise for Virginia,” the report stated.
Said simply, students did well across the board — regardless of whether they were in a public or private program.
“The outcome evaluation shows that the majority of pupils in both [Virginia Preschool Initiative] and mixed delivery classrooms achieved outcomes that met or exceeded outcomes typical for their age group,” the report states, “and that pupils in mixed delivery classrooms achieved outcomes comparable to those of pupils in VPI classrooms.”
Data also suggest that the educational level of the teachers involved wasn’t closely connected with outcomes, with one exception — math scores.
“Teacher credentials varied across both settings, yet, except for math scores, there was no association between credentials and child outcomes,” the report states.
Students weren’t the only beneficiaries. Preschool programs themselves actually showed improvement over the course of the pilot program.
“These positive outcomes strongly suggest that expanding mixed delivery can be a viable and desirable public policy option for the Commonwealth,” the report states.