Date of Award

Summer 1989

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Stephen W. Tonelson

Committee Member

Maurice R. Berube

Committee Member

Carlton Brown


Assessment of the potential value of the preschool experience has prompted urban educators to consider the advantages of preschool service delivery by the public schools. Urban policy makers ponder whether or not advocacy for preschool education should include advocacy of the provider. This study addressed the provision of preschool service for students from urban low-income families.

The grade placement of students born in three consecutive years was observed to determine their progress during the first three years of public schooling. Students were categorized with regard to their participation in preschool: some had attended a public school system preschool, First Step; some had participated in Head Start, which is sponsored by another public agency; others had had no formal preschool experience.

From the students who were in second grade after three years, subjects were identified for an assessment of academic progress. A comparison was made of the mean scores on a standardized achievement test of the three categories of students. These computations provided data for discussion of the following questions: (1) Is the achievement of urban second grade students from low-income families with public school-sponsored preschool experience significantly different from that of urban second grade students from low-income families with other public agency-sponsored preschool experience? (2) How does the achievement of First Step participants and Head Start participants compare with that of low-income students with no formal preschool experience?

Findings revealed that three years after preschool experience, a significantly higher percentage of low-income students with First Step experience were in second grade than those with Head Start experience and of those with no preschool experience. Three years after the year of preschool experience, no significant difference in the academic achievement of the three categories of low-income students was evidenced by their performance on the SRA Achievement Test. These findings suggest that the rate of student progress was positively affected by preschool participation while the level of achievement was not.