Today, Mississippi First is releasing two pre-K research briefs demonstrating the positive impact Early Learning Collaboratives have had on the Mississippi pre-K landscape since 2013. 

Since our founding, Mississippi First has known access to high-quality, no- and low-cost pre-K in Mississippi would be a game-changer for our youngest learners. In our first pre-K publication, 2012’s Leaving Last in Line, we recommended creating state-funded pre-K in Mississippi through a collaborative approach. In 2013, the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 made this recommendation a reality. Since then, we have tracked the availability of quality pre-K statewide through our State of Pre-K series. Our report in the series, published in 2015, detailed programmatic and contextual data about public school pre-K programs and the communities they served in 2011-2012. In the 2017 version of the report, Mississippi First provided data and analysis about private and public pre-K providers, including childcare, Head Start, public schools, and Early Learning Collaboratives.

This year, Mississippi First is launching an online data platform through Tableau alongside mini briefs that outline our findings. The data is from the 2017-2018 school year.

The 2021 State of Pre-K Briefs (Using 2017-2018 School Year Data

The 2021 State of Pre-K briefs are focused on assessing access and quality across the state. Today, we are releasing the first two 2021 briefs. A third will follow later this summer. In conjunction with the briefs, Mississippi First will publish an online data dashboard that will provide pre-K data from the 2017-2018 school year. Each of today’s pre-K briefs shows strong evidence that the collaborative program is the path to expanding quality pre-K statewide.

Brief #1: Public School and Collaborative Pre-K Programs and Kindergarten Readiness in 2017-2018

Rigorous program standards have long been a focus for improving program quality, but they ultimately need to be paired with direct child outcome measures to determine if the standards are having the intended effect—helping children learn and grow. Brief #1 demonstrates that collaborative programs produced higher growth, higher spring scores, and more consistency in scores and growth among programs than non-collaborative programs. This finding is consistent with other MDE research that used student-level data.

Brief #2: Pre-K Teacher Qualifications in 2017-2018

A key element of pre-K program quality is the effectiveness of lead and assistant teachers in improving student outcomes across early learning domains, including academic domains. Qualifications for Mississippi pre-K teachers differ depending on the type of provider, but Mississippi Early Learning Collaborative teachers as well as other public school pre-K teachers must meet both MDE and NIEER benchmarks. The benchmarks require that 1) lead teachers hold a bachelor’s degree (MDE and NIEER), 2) lead teachers have specialized training in early education (MDE and NIEER), and 3) assistant teachers have an AA (MDE) and specialized training in early education (MDE and NIEER). The brief details available information on whether teachers in public school classrooms are meeting these requirements.

Based on the analysis, we recommend the following: 

  1. MDE should track pre-K assistants’ credentials through state data systems. 
  2. MDE and IHL should partner to develop a better understanding of the annual supply of new teachers qualified for pre-K lead and assistant roles and encourage more elementary education majors to take courses that would enable them to earn a pre-K endorsement should more jobs become available. 
  3. The state must address its ongoing lack of a working state longitudinal data system (SLDS) that allows qualified researchers to access student- and teacher-level data with appropriate safeguards. A better SLDS would go a long way in addressing Mississippi’s chronic data woes, including those relevant to pre-K.

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