NEPC Review: Seeds of Achievement: AppleTree’s Early Childhood D.C. Charter Schools

This report argues that a particular charter school preschool model is successful and that, therefore, charter approaches should be used to expand preschool access, recommending that states develop large numbers of charter preschools. But the report fails to make the case that the model is unusually effective or that charter status is critical to any success it does have.While the AppleTree model may well be as effective as the Pioneer authors suggest, this report lacks rigorous evidence regarding the model’s development, implementation, cost, and effectiveness. The report uses a pre-test, post-test design to argue the program is effective, but lacks a comparison group that could show if the test results are impressive or disappointing. It also provides no evidence that the children served are comparable to children served by other preschool programs. Sample sizes, attrition, and statistical methods are unreported, and no statistical tests of significance appear to have been conducted. Preschool models with rigorous evidence of high levels of effectiveness have been developed and are currently implemented by public school systems where adequate funding has been made available. We will not know whether AppleTree can add to the preschool policy debates without more rigorous evaluation of the program and its effects.

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