Policy Brief/Analysis

New Jersey Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study through Grade 10 (APPLES-10)

Fact Sheet

students raising hands in classroom

Two decades ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Abbott v. Burke mandated that the state establish high quality preschool education in the 31 highest-poverty school districts. New Jersey created a pre-K program with high standards and a continuous improvement system that transformed a patchwork of private and public programs into a highly effective mixed delivery system. NIEER’s most recent research on children’s long-term outcomes from this preschool system has been published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

The new study contributes to our understanding of the potential long-term outcomes from large scale public preschool programs. Key points regarding the program, the study, and its findings are:

  • The Abbott Pre-K program is currently being expanded to more New Jersey communities, but it is far from typical of large-scale public preschool programs. Important features of the program include:
    • Universal access in communities with high percentages of low-income families.
    • High expectations for learning and teaching set in standards.
    • Adequate funding of about $15,000 per child per year.
    • Strong teachers with 4-year-degrees and specialization in early childhood, pay parity with K-12 regardless of public, private, or Head Start setting.
    • Maximum class size of 15.
    • Children can begin at age 3 and attend for 2 years.
    • Full school day (at the time of the study the program received free wrap-around child care).
    • An extensive continuous improvement system that guides individual teachers, centers, districts, and the state.
  • The pre-K program was offered beginning at age 3 in a mixed-delivery system (private and public, including Head Start) with a single set of standards overseen by school districts.
  • Study participants were primarily African-American and Hispanic and resided in the 15 largest of 31 low-income communities implementing the program.
  • The study estimates both initial effects at kindergarten entry on individualized assessments and effects on statewide assessments from grades 3 through 10.
  • Rigorous methods are used to account for differences among individual students, local contexts, and attrition from the sample over time.
  • Sample size varies from 426-745 depending on grade level and assessment (for example, not all children take the Algebra II exam).
  • Achievement effects were smaller in grades 3 to 10 than at kindergarten entry but did not “fade out” and remained substantial through grade 10 in both math and language arts and literacy.
  • Attending the program for two years beginning at age 3 had roughly twice the effects on achievement as one year at age 4.
  • Grade retention was 15 percentage points lower through grade 10 for children who attended the pre-K program. Estimates are consistent with a 7 percentage point reduction in special education.