City of Tempe Preschool Resource and Expansion
Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals in both Arizona and Florida by creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education. Fundamental beliefs in Community, Equity, Investment, and Partnership propel student supports and guide the foundation’s strategic investments. While all students benefit from the transformational power of education, Helios focuses on serving first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students, thus addressing the education equity gap that often prevents these students from realizing their potential.
Children who attend high-quality preschool programs reap benefits that can last throughout school and their lives. Research shows that investments in quality preschool programs bolster student success, including clear positive effects on children’s early literacy and mathematics skills (Weiland & Yoshikawa, 2013). Compared to children who did not attend preschool, those who do attend preschool programs are more prepared for school and less likely to be identified as having special needs or be held back in elementary school (Heckman, 2018).
However, access to preschool is often determined by a family’s ability to pay for it, or whether they reside in one of the handful of cities and states that offers widely available public preschool programs. This leads to the question, if Arizonans fully understood the educational benefits of preschool, would they demand greater investment of state and local financial resources for high-quality preschool programs?
Aiming to provide further evidence of the value of high-quality preschool, in 2018, Helios and its partners commissioned a multi-year research study of a new city-funded preschool program in Tempe, Arizona. The study sought to determine which combination of factors maximizes kindergarten readiness rates and third-grade reading outcomes, while minimizing the fade-out of the positive effects of high-quality preschool. The factors examined included teaching methodology, teacher professional development, coaching, mentoring and parenting education. This report looks at the first two years of research.
Section One provides the history of how the City of Tempe created the Tempe PRE (Preschool Resource Expansion) program and describes the program as implemented. Section Two describes the evaluation plan and goals of the research. Section Three presents key findings from the early stages of implementation. Section Four examines Tempe PRE children’s outcomes in preschool and kindergarten. Section Five shares lessons learned and recommendations for successfully implementing a high-quality preschool program.