Bright Start TN Clearinghouse
The Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) Program is a state-funded program for four-year-olds, with an emphasis on at-risk students and high-priority communities. VPK promotes kindergarten readiness through high-quality learning environments. VPK is in 138 of the state’s 142 school districts. Districts may also contract with private child care providers, Head Start agencies, institutions of higher education, and other community-based or private organizations rated at least three stars on the state’s QRIS.
The evidence base on Tennessee VPK is mixed, but overall suggests positive outcomes. A study released in 2022 found that children who attended VPK during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years had lower state achievement test scores, higher rates of discipline infractions, and a greater portion had special education placements than their peers who were not in VPK by the end of sixth grade. It is important to note that while the outcomes are not positive, the differences in outcomes between groups were small, and no effect sizes reached the medium range. Additionally, over the last decade, Tennessee has made significant efforts to improve the quality of the VPK program. For example, in recent years, Metro Nashville Public Schools has partnered with Vanderbilt University to provide professional development for their pre-K teachers. There is also evidence demonstrating that children in VPK are well prepared for kindergarten and have positive peer relationships and attitudes towards learning.