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Evaluation of an Innovative Funding Mechanism for Public Preschool - Chicago Pay for Success Child-Parent Center (CPC) Project

Sat, March 25, 11:45am to 1:15pm, Salt Palace Convention Center, Floor: 3, Meeting Room 355 B



This presentation will include outcome data from the final evaluation report of a Pay-for-Success (PFS)-funded early childhood project in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). A PFS project uses an innovative funding model where private investments are leveraged to support programs with potentially high returns on the investment. In a PFS project, clearly defined and measurable performance goals for the program’s services are determined up front. Private funders pay for the cost of the services, and government pays back the private funders, with a reasonable return, only if the performance goals (or outcomes) are achieved. Some of the potential benefits of using PFS funding include helping to shift funds from remediation to prevention activities and funding programs and services that have an established evidence base. In the city of Chicago, investor funding was used by the city and the school district to pay for the operational costs of expanding access to the Child-Parent Center (CPC) program for low-income four-year-olds. The CPC program has a strong evidence base demonstrating better academic achievement, higher graduation rates, and lower special education rates (Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, & Mann, 2002). Hypothesis: This evidence was the basis for the selection of the three outcomes used to evaluate the success of the project: kindergarten readiness, special education placement, and third grade reading scores.

Study population and methods

This paper includes findings from four cohorts of children. Outcomes on kindergarten readiness for three cohorts and third grade reading achievement for the first cohort are available. Special education outcomes for kindergarten through third grade are presented with a matched comparison group. The four cohorts include four-year-olds attending part- or full-day preschool at one of nine sites that received PFS funding in the 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 school years and include kindergarten readiness and reading achievement data on over 2,000 CPC students and special education rates for approximately 2,000 CPC students as well as a matched-comparison group of over 25,000 students. To identify a comparison group, we first identified students who started kindergarten in the same year as their CPC cohort peers and were eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch but did not attend CPS preschool or attend kindergarten at a school with a CPC program. We then applied propensity score weighting to all students in the comparison group to create comparable groups.


Kindergarten readiness rates for program participants ranged from 42% to 61%. Only the first cohort of participants had reached third grade by the end of the evaluation. Of the original 313 students in Cohort 1, 249 had third grade reading scores on the NWEA MAP assessment. Most (79%) met the 25th percentile or higher criterion that was established as the target outcome. We also found a reduction in special education rates for CPC participants compared with children who were similar but did not attend preschool in the district. See Exhibit 1. These findings will be discussed in the larger context of scaling high-quality preschool programs and services that benefit students in both the short- and long-term.