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RCT Full Sample

The RCT Full Sample is composed of 2,990 students who applied to attend TN-VPK in either the fall of 2009 (Cohort 1) or the fall of 2010 (Cohort 2). Of the students in the Full Sample, 1,852 were offered admission to TN-VPK, and 1,138 were waitlisted for TN-VPK.

Data for the 2,990 students in the RCT Full Sample are drawn annually from the Tennessee Department of Education (TN-DOE) through the assistance of the Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA). During the 2019-2020 school year, students in Cohort 1 were expected to be in ninth grade, and students in Cohort 2 were expected to be in eighth grade based on the years they entered kindergarten.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of schools, administrative data are not available for Cohort 1 in ninth grade and Cohort 2 in eighth grade.

State Achievement Tests

  • Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP): The TCAP was the state achievement test that students in our sample completed during their third grade year. We analyzed scaled scores for reading, math, and science.
  • TNReady: TNReady replaced TCAP in 2015-16 as the state standardized achievement test. As reported in the media, Tennessee had a major breakdown in its testing program when switching to TNReady that resulted in a loss of fourth grade achievement test scores for Cohort 2 (began pre-k in 2010) and fifth grade scores for Cohort 1 (began pre-k in 2009) for the RCT Full Sample. Both cohorts completed the TNReady in their sixth and seventh grade years. We analyzed the scaled scores for English language arts, math, and science in the 6th grade outcomes paper.

Special Education

  • Each year information is collected regarding whether students have Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs). Categories of IEPs reported by TNDOE include specific learning disability, intellectual disability, speech or language impairments, emotional disturbance, autism, functional delay, and/or developmental delay. We do not include IEP data for gifted or physical/health impairment.

Grade Level

  • Each year we determined whether a student was enrolled below versus at or above their expected grade, reflecting retention in grade or (rarely) promotion beyond the expected grade. Expected grade level is based on the year of kindergarten entry.

Disciplinary Offenses

  • TN-DOE categorizes disciplinary offenses into two categories:
    • Violation of school rules: This category includes any recorded violations of school policy such as attendance-related issues, dress code violations, cheating, and the like.
    • Major disciplinary infractions: This category includes possessions of drugs or alcohol, possession and/or use of firearms or other weapons, theft, vandalism, violence or threats of violence, bullying, fighting, assault, and sexual harassment.


  • Each year, attendance rates were calculated by dividing the number of days the student attended school by the number of instructional days enrolled.