The Impact of Public Prekindergarten on Social Competence and School Attendance for Hispanic Students Identified as English Language Learners
Participation in prekindergarten for English Language Learners may positively impact social competence and decrease school absences, which may promote increased levels of academic achievement throughout the years a student is enrolled in school. The purpose of this two-phase, explanatory sequential mixed-methods study was to assess the impact of participation in a half-day public prekindergarten program on social competence and on school attendance of kindergarten, first, and second grade Hispanic English Language Learners, and then follow up by utilizing teacher focus groups to explain the results in greater depth.
In the first phase of this study, quantitative survey data were collected from teachers, parents, and students themselves regarding their perceptions of social competence skills as measured by the Social Competence Scale – Teacher Version, the Social Competence Scale – Parent Version, and the Child Development Project Student Questionnaire – Social Competence Scale, respectively. Data were then analyzed using independent-samples t tests to determine if there was a statistically significant mean difference between social competence of Hispanic English Language Learners in kindergarten, first, and second grade who attended half-day public prekindergarten and a matched sample of Hispanic English Language Learners who did not, and determine if there was a statistically significant mean difference between school attendance rates of Hispanic English Language Learners in kindergarten, first, and second grade who attended half-day public prekindergarten and a matched sample of Hispanic English Language Learners who did not. For the second phase of this study, three qualitative focus groups were held with teachers in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, to better understand and explain the findings related to social competency.
Quantitative data revealed that kindergarten Hispanic English Language Learners displayed statistically significant mean differences in their self-assessment of social competence, and second grade students displayed statistically significant mean differences in school attendance. Overall, Hispanic English Language Learners in this study who participated in half-day public prekindergarten demonstrated slightly increased, but not statistically significant differences in social competence and school attendance when compared to a matched set of Hispanic English Language Learners who did not. Qualitative data provided depth of understanding to those findings. Further research on structural variables of public prekindergarten programs and instructional quality is warranted to evaluate what specific components may have a statistically significant impact on developing social competence skills and increasing school attendance for Hispanic English Language Learners, making public prekindergarten a more effective early intervention strategy.