A new study from Georgetown University finds Tulsa’s universal pre-K program has produced significant, positive effects on students’ educational achievement and well-being through middle school.

Researchers found that middle school students who participated in Tulsa’s pre-K program “have higher math test scores, are more likely to enroll in honors courses, and are noticeably less likely to have been retained in grade.” Early findings found that children in the study were more likely to be engaged in class, less timid, and more confident overall.

This is the first long-term study of a universal pre-k program, and it shows significant benefits to children.

William Gormley, a professor of public policy at Georgetown and a lead researcher on the study, told NPR, “Teachers tell us they can spot a pre-K alumnus a mile away because that child is better prepared to learn.”

The study also examines the role that quality plays in Tulsa Pre-K’s success. According to the researchers, “there are two different ways to measure pre-K quality. The first way is to focus on the education level [of preschool teachers] and student-teacher ratios in the classroom. Those things look very good in the Tulsa program. Every teacher has at least a bachelor’s degree and is early childhood-certified. They get paid the same as a regular [elementary school] teacher. But the proof in the pudding is to see what’s going on inside classrooms.”

David L. Kirp, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a senior fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, writes in the New York Times, “Skeptical researchers have contended that it doesn’t really matter, that preschool provides only short-term educational assistance that fades out after a few years. But new findings from a continuing study of 4,000 children in Tulsa, Okla., should put that contention to rest. High-quality prekindergarten has powerful long-term cognitive effects.”