Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D.


Student early literacy readiness is predictive of later academic success and pre-k programs are a proven intervention to develop early literacy; however, the cost of pre-k programs differs greatly. These differences in cost are related to the opportunities and services included within each program. This study examined four pre-k programs offered within a large school system in Virginia to determine if there were differences in students’ early literacy growth by program attended and evaluated the ratio of cost to achievement of each pre-k program to determine their cost-effectiveness. To do this, two one-way analyses of variances (ANOVAs) were conducted to test if the pre-k program attended had an effect on students’ early literacy performance. Student performance was measured using data from the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 PALS-Pre-K administrations. ANOVAs were conducted using mean gain scores and developmental level attainment measures. The cost of each program was then determined using an ingredients method. Financial data was collected through a review of financial documents and interviews. Finally, three Cost-Effectiveness Ratios were calculated using mean gain scores, developmental range attainment, and a standardized mean gain score. Results found no significant differences between group means [F(3, 509) = .636, p = .592, h2 = .004 and F(3, 510) = .329, p = .804, h2 = .002]. A comparison of mean gain scores revealed a 4.60-point difference across the programs, suggesting that early literacy performance between programs does not differ greatly within the population studied. In the overall mean developmental range attainment analysis, a difference of only .08 was found between programs, again demonstrating that there was not much variance between programs. Although this study did not find significant differences in students’ early literacy performance between pre-k programs, this study did reveal significant differences in the overall costs of pre-k programs studied. CEA results found the Title I Pre-K program to be the most cost-effective, lowest cost with highest gains. These findings do not consider longer-term benefits or benefits related to potential effects on other school readiness factors.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission