Research Report

Are public school preschool programs more academic? Auspice-related variations in preschool practice in the United States

NIEER Working Paper May 2024

This study utilizes data gathered from a nationwide survey of preschool educators in the United States to examine the prevalence of teaching practices associated with academic-focused rather than play-based approaches. The research delves into how these practices vary across different types of preschool programs, including publicly funded, such as state and locally funded public preschools, federally funded Head Start programs, and private preschools predominantly funded through fees. The analysis also considers various program features influenced by public policies, such as teacher qualifications and classroom characteristics. While the main objective is descriptive—to understand the extent of practice differences across auspices—the study also aims to shed light on potential reasons behind these differences, albeit with a recognition of limitations in establishing causality.


The Authors

W. Steven (Steve) Barnett is a Board of Governors Professor and the founder and Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Dr. Barnett’s work primarily focuses on public policies regarding early childhood education, child care, and child development.

Kwanghee Jung, an assistant research professor, brings to NIEER expertise in quantitative data analysis and is working on studies that analyze the effect of participation in state-funded preschool on children’s learning and development.


The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, conducts and disseminates independent research and analysis to inform early childhood education policy.