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Lastinger Center Senior Manager of Research and Evaluation Mary Bratsch-Hines worked with collaborators Michael Little, Kevin C. Bastian, Lora Cohen-Vogel, Peg Burchinal, and Ellen Peisner-Feinberg to examine the convergence of Pre-K attending and non-Pre-K attending students’ skill levels in Kindergarten to find that skill heterogeneity does indeed moderate student learning gains over the kindergarten year, particularly for students who attended Pre-K.


Students’ gains from Pre-K converge with similar students who did not attend Pre-K in elementary school. One theory for convergence is that students who attend Pre-K enter kindergarten classrooms that are skill heterogeneous, and these students are positioned near the top of the classroom skill distribution. Kindergarten teachers, however, focus their instruction on students toward the bottom of the skill distribution, which generates observed convergence. We explore this theory by analyzing data from six rural school districts in North Carolina (N = 655, aged 4–6, 51 % female, 77 % non-White). We find mixed evidence in support of this hypothesis. Our measures of kindergarten classroom heterogeneity were inconsistently related to skill convergence based on both the outcome measure and the specific construction of the heterogeneity measure, but all significant associations were in the predicted direction.


Little, M., Bastian, K. C., Cohen-Vogel, L., Bratsch-Hines, M., Burchinal, P., Peisner-Feinberg, E. (2024). Is skill heterogeneity in kindergarten classrooms associated with the persistence of pre-K gains? Evidence from the IES Early Learning Network. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 68, 35–44.