PROJECTA Study of Public Prekindergarten in the District of Columbia

female teacher working at classroom table with four prekindergarten students

Data show how public preschool can close opportunity gaps and improve language development, literacy, math skills, and future earnings. Yet, despite a growing evidence base, most research on preschool focuses on small-scale programs, select groups of students, and limited analytic approaches.

The DC Prekindergarten Study offers the first independent look at DC Public Prekindergarten, which leads the nation in preschool access and enrolls a diverse group of 3- and 4-year-old students in public schools, public charter schools, and community-based organizations. Because the program uses a centralized admissions lottery, this study seeks to measure preschool effectiveness through a design akin to a randomized experiment. Study activities pair rigorous methods and a large and diverse sample of students with a sustained focus on equity.

The study team is engaged in understanding how families choose, enroll, and participate in public prekindergarten; access and quality issues; and effects on children’s growth and development. This mixed-methods implementation and impact evaluation includes several activities:

  • analyses of administrative data
  • direct child assessments
  • family and educator surveys
  • key informant interviews
  • cost and cost-effectiveness studies

Ongoing partnership and a data-sharing agreement with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and My School DC provide the information necessary to examine preschool enrollment and student outcomes, including persistence in public schools, special education status, in-grade retention, and school mobility. Analyses explore the impact of DC Public Prekindergarten, along with impact heterogeneity across Montessori and dual language program models and children’s demographic characteristics.

The DC Prekindergarten Study began in early 2019 and is ongoing. The study was made possible by the Heising-Simons Foundation. The study is supported by the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, through Grant R305A210506 to the Urban Institute. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Urban Institute, their trustees or funders, or the US Department of Education.


Erica Greenberg, Principal Investigator

Christina Weiland, Coprincipal Investigator

Justin Doromal, Project Director

Breno Braga, Director of Analysis

Leonardo Restrepo, Data Manager

Rachel Lamb, Research Analyst

Matthew Chingos, Senior Adviser


School Readiness Consulting


Different Settings, Different Experiences: Equity and Quality in DC’s Mixed-Delivery Public Prekindergarten System

Lottery-Based Evaluations of Early Education Programs: Opportunities and Challenges for Building the Next Generation of Evidence

In DC, Spanish Language Applicants Can't Always Access the Dual-Language Prekindergarten Programs They Want

“What Language Do You Want to Complete This Application In?”: Comparing Spanish and English Applications to DC Public Prekindergarten

Using Centralized Lotteries to Measure Preschool Impact

Equitable Access to Universal Prekindergarten in Washington, DC

Who Wins the Preschool Lottery? Applicants and Application Patterns in DC Public Prekindergarten


The Effects of Public Prekindergarten for 3-Year-Olds on Early Elementary School Enrollment

Research Areas Education
Tags Child care and early childhood education Early childhood education K-12 education Racial equity in education
Policy Centers Center on Education Data and Policy