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 outcome 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

  • Center-based educational programs that improve kindergarten readiness, facilitating cognitive and social-emotional development
  • Generally intended for four year old children, though some programs serve three year olds
  • Higher quality programs (as demonstrated by benchmarking systems) have stronger and more sustained effects
  • Both part- and full-day programs have shown positive effects
Issue Areas
Early childhood
Target Population
Children under 5
Cost per Participant
National median price of $8,320 a year per student

Evidence and impacts


Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse

  • Widely recognized as increasing academic achievement, cognitive functioning, and social-emotional skills
  • Effects are strongest immediately following preschool but can persist through K-12 schooling, increasing high school graduation, reducing delinquent behavior, and improving mental health
  • Improvements in academic achievement are largest for students from low-income backgrounds
  • Estimated $2-4 economic return for every $1 invested in preschool

Best practices in implementation

  • Use a proven curriculum design with developmentally-appropriate lesson plans. Activities should focus on developing skills that children will use in kindergarten, such as reading and math.
  • Design professional development plans that ensure staff meets targeted improvement goals and maintain consistency with the curriculum. Teachers should receive coaching at least twice every month.
  • Maintain consistent interaction with parents, both in terms of student progress reporting and inclusion in preschool activities.
  • Programs with longer durations tend to produce stronger outcomes.
  • Include follow up programs that aid the child’s transition to kindergarten, primary school, and even high school.