Pre-K Capacity and Enrollment in North Lawndale
Report finds declines in enrollment and capacity, trends that COVID-19 exacerbated
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IPR developmental psychologist Terri Sabol and IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and their colleagues, Kathryn Gonzalez, Tianshi Wang, and Elana Rich, recently released an IPR rapid research report, "The Chicago Universal Pre-K Study: Pre-K Capacity and Enrollment in North Lawndale." It describes trends in pre-K capacity and enrollment in North Lawndale Chicago Public Schools (CPS) schools between 2015–16 and 2021–22.
In the 2021–22 school year, 24 CPS schools were located in North Lawndale, one of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods on the city's West Side. Of the 24, 17 provide prekindergarten (pre-K). Five of the 24 schools are located just outside of the neighborhood's boundaries but have North Lawndale residents in their catchment areas. Seventeen of the 24 schools provided free, full-day or free, half-day pre-K programming for 3- and/or 4-year-olds at any point between 2015–16 and 2021–22.
Most students attending CPS schools in North Lawndale are Black (93% in 2021–22), with 6% who are Hispanic/Latinx. Just over 2% of students are English language learners. Schools in North Lawndale are in neighborhoods where approximately one in three families lived below the federal poverty threshold, on average, in 2021–22.
The city conducted a needs assessment and determined adequate free, full-day pre-K already existed
in North Lawndale. (Note: Over the 2018–19 school year, Chicago began expanding free, full-day pre-K for 4-year-olds through CPS.) As a result, North Lawndale's neighborhood schools were not targeted for further expansion through UPK.
In this report, the authors demonstrate that pre-K in North Lawndale has experienced a decline in both capacity and enrollment between 2015–16 and 2021–22. The researchers find the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these trends, though a partial rebound took place in 2021–22. The decline in pre-K enrollment was similar to the more gradual declines observed during this time for kindergarten and elementary enrollment in North Lawndale schools. The four communities neighboring North Lawndale with similar demographic characteristics also experienced similar declines in enrollment over this period. These patterns reflect broader demographic shifts in North Lawndale and neighboring communities that have experienced population decline since 2015–16, especially among children under the age of 10.
The report covers the following topics:
- Pre-K Capacity in North Lawndale from 2015–16 to 2021–22
- Pre-K Enrollment in North Lawndale from 2015–16 to 2021–22
- Kindergarten-to-Fifth Grade Enrollment in North Lawndale Showed Similar Trends
- Neighboring Communities Saw Similar Enrollment Declines
- Population Decline in North Lawndale Using Census Data
Read the report here.
Terri Sabol is associate professor of human development and social policy. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is the Margaret Walker Alexander Professor. Both are IPR fellows. Kathryn Gonzalez is a researcher at Mathematic Policy Research. Tianshi Wang and Elana Rich are IPR senior research study coordinators.
Photo credit: iStockphoto, I. Anupong
Published: July 31, 2023.