Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
  • This strategy can help address educational disparities and promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Supporting development in early childhood: Preschool is formal, center-based education for children three to five years old. Some preschool programs, especially those that serve low-income families, may supplement educational offerings with family support services (e.g., referral to a health clinic). Such programs aim to improve kindergarten readiness and support children’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.

  • Varied program structures: Preschool programs are operated by a range of government and nonprofit organizations, including school districts, religious organizations, and social service agencies. Typically, programs run five days per week during the school year and offer either part- or full-day options.

  • Focusing on child development: Children in preschool programs take part in a range of activities to promote their development and prepare them for kindergarten. These may include activities that promote physical (e.g., running, jumping, painting), social and emotional (e.g., conflict resolution), and cognitive (e.g., encouraging exploration) development.

  • Offering support services: Preschool programs with family support services provide or connect families with services that promote child and family wellbeing. Common support services include parental education programs, health services, case management, transportation assistance, and more. While some services may be provided by the preschool program directly (e.g., meals), others are provided by outside agencies with which the preschool program has a relationship (e.g., health care).

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that preschool education programs are a well-supported strategy for improving kindergarten readiness and child development.

  • A 2022 research synthesis identified preschool education programs as a scientifically supported strategy for improving academic achievement, cognitive skills, and social emotional skills.

  • A 2016 research synthesis identified preschool education programs with support services as a scientifically supported strategy for improving academic achievement.

Note: This content is under review

  • Screen and assess children to provide individualized support: Children have different interests, strengths, and needs. To properly support each child, preschool programs should conduct initial screenings and perform ongoing assessments of each child’s development and learning. This information can inform curriculum planning, pedagogical strategies used, and more.

  • Solidify relationships with partners: Preschool programs should build formal relationships with community partners that can support parents and guardians as they work toward their goals for their children and family. Programs can identify the resources families want and need through parent surveys, focus groups, and community assessments. As partnerships are developed, memoranda of understanding, contracts, and letters of agreement are tools to define shared goals with partner organizations.

  • Use an evidence-based curriculum: Preschool providers should use an early childhood curriculum that reflects current best practices on how children learn. Such a curriculum offers children varied and sequenced learning experiences, asks them to think deeply, and builds on their prior knowledge.

  • Work toward higher staff retention: Preschool programs often face high rates of staff turnover. To increase staff retention, programs should work to offer competitive compensation and invest in improvements to the work environment. Examples of the latter include allowing staff to observe their colleagues’ classrooms, hiring a full-time floater to provide extra support during transitions (e.g., going to lunch), creating a peer mentoring program, and more.

  • Use data to inform decision making: Preschool programs should use data to inform decision making and planning at both the child and program level. By using a management information system, programs can more easily capture and share relevant data, such as from developmental screenings of children, staff performance appraisals, program self-assessments, and more.