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Seattle Preschool Program graduates from four-year pilot phase to an established, high-quality program and national leader

Results of the Seattle Preschool Program’s (SPP) fourth year of implementation conclude Seattle has one of the best public preschool programs in the United States.  SPP was recognized for continuing to reach families that can benefit most from early childhood education and demonstrating child learning gains across language, literacy and math. SPP quality scores now surpass published results from Boston, MA, Tulsa, OK, and New Jersey and are similar to New York, NY and San Antonio, TX.

Key findings of the 2018-19 study, conducted by National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and Cultivate Learning at the University of Washington, include:

  • Larger gains for children in language, literacy, and math than would be expected by natural development alone;
  • Expanded access for families furthest from opportunity, with over 75% of enrolled children from families who earn less than 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL) or under $77,250 per year for a family of four; and
  • Growth over four years from 14 to 75 classrooms.

“When we support kids and families through early learning programs, our children in all parts of the city and from all backgrounds can reach their full potential,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “The Seattle Preschool Program is reducing the barriers facing low-income families by investing in high quality early learning to help close the opportunity gap. Developing strong cognitive, emotional, and language development in our youngest learners is a giant step toward creating success in schools for years to come.”

In a release from NIEER, W. Steven Barnett, NIEER’s founder and senior co-director, said “Seattle has built a strong foundation on which to grow and expand its preschool program… the program’s trend is clearly positive.”

Approved by voters as a four-year demonstration project in 2014, SPP opened its first classrooms in the 2015-2016 school year (SY). Each year since, NIEER has conducted an annual evaluation of the program. With funding from the voter-approved Families, Education Preschool and Promise (FEPP) Levy in 2018, SPP will continue to expand over the next seven years to 130 classrooms by SY 2025-26. The additional classrooms will increase the geographic diversity of the program, with significant growth in neighborhoods throughout Seattle, providing families in more areas access to high-quality preschools near their homes.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the incredible work done by Seattle’s early learning community partners and City staff,” said Dwane Chapelle, Director of the Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning. “We thank Seattle’s parents for trusting SPP to serve their children as the program grows and are thrilled with the results of this latest study.”  

The Seattle Preschool Program helps prepare children to enter school with the skills they need to succeed. Research shows that children who attend high quality preschool programs have better academic and life outcomes: they’re more likely to have better grades, graduate, attend college, get a job, have higher lifetime wages and better mental and physical health.

The full study is available at