“High-quality early-childhood programs boost graduation rates, reduce grade retention and cut down on special education placements, according to a new analysis of several other early-education research studies that adds fresh fuel to long-running policy debates about the effectiveness of pre-K.
‘These results suggest that the benefits of early-childhood education programs do in fact persist beyond the preschool year,’ said Dana Charles McCoy, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in an email interview. McCoy was the lead author on the analysis, which was published Thursday in the journal Educational Researcher.
‘Given how costly retention, special education, and dropout can be for both individuals and societies, our results suggest that investments in high-quality early-childhood education programming are likely to pay off in the long term,’ McCoy said.
A task force of social scientists from Brookings and Duke University has produced a consensus statement on what we know about the effects of pre-kindergarten.
Brookings introduces the statement and a report on the current state of scientific knowledge on pre-kindergarten effects here.
Education Week’s coverage is here.
The Task Force agreed on six consensus statements. The third one is particularly relevant to P-3 improvement.
- Studies of different groups of preschoolers often find greater improvement in learning at the end of the pre-k year for economically disadvantaged children and dual language learners than for more advantaged and English-proficient children.
- Pre-k programs are not all equally effective. Several effectiveness factors may be at work in the most successful programs. One such factor supporting early learning is a well implemented, evidence-based curriculum. Coaching for teachers, as well as efforts to promote orderly but active classrooms, may also be helpful.
- Children’s early learning trajectories depend on the quality of their learning experiences not only before and during their pre-k year, but also following the pre-k year. Classroom experiences early in elementary school can serve as charging stations for sustaining and amplifying pre-k learning gains. One good bet for powering up later learning is elementary school classrooms that provide individualization and differentiation in instructional content and strategies.
- Convincing evidence shows that children attending a diverse array of state and school district pre-k programs are more ready for school at the end of their pre-k year than children who do not attend pre-k. Improvements in academic areas such as literacy and numeracy are most common; the smaller number of studies of social-emotional and self-regulatory development generally show more modest improvements in those areas.
- Convincing evidence on the longer-term impacts of scaled-up pre-k programs on academic outcomes and school progress is sparse, precluding broad conclusions. The evidence that does exist often shows that pre-k-induced improvements in learning are detectable during elementary school, but studies also reveal null or negative longer-term impacts for some programs.
- States have displayed considerable ingenuity in designing and implementing their pre-k programs. Ongoing innovation and evaluation are needed during and after pre-k to ensure continued improvement in creating and sustaining children’s learning gains. Research-practice partnerships are a promising way of achieving this goal. These kinds of efforts are needed to generate more complete and reliable evidence on effectiveness factors in pre-k and elementary school that generate long-run impacts.
“The launch of Pre-K for All led to improved health outcomes for low-income children. That’s according to researchers at New York University who analyzed Medicaid data for New York City children who were eligible to enroll in free pre-K versus those who just missed the cutoff because of their age.
In a report released this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, using data from 2013 through 2016, researchers found that the children eligible for pre-K were more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with asthma or vision problems after the rollout of Pre-K for All. They were also more likely to have received immunizations or be screened for infectious diseases, both of which are requirements for enrolling in the city’s program.
Proper medical screening could have implications beyond physical well-being, the researchers suggest. Diagnosing and treating chronic health problems earlier could help students ‘cope with challenges, feel less frustrated or overwhelmed in the classroom, and communicate with peers and educators more effectively,’ the study found.”
You can find the Chalkbeat story here.
From a recent NPR article:
“Is preschool worth it? Policymakers, parents, researchers and us, at NPR Ed, have spent a lot of time thinking about this question.
We know that most pre-kindergarten programs do a good job of improving ‘ specific skills like phonics and counting, as well as broader social and emotional behaviors, by the time students enter kindergarten. Just this week, a study looking at more than 20,000 students in a state-funded preschool program in Virginia found that kids made large improvements in their alphabet recognition skills.
So the next big question to follow is, of course, Do these benefits last?
New research out of North Carolina says yes, they do. The study found that early childhood programs in that state resulted in higher test scores, a lower chance of being held back in a grade, and a fewer number of children with special education placements. Those gains lasted up through the fifth grade….
The big difference between the long-term findings in North Carolina and Tulsa and the fade out in Tennessee, researchers say, is the quality of the preschool program.
Having a high-quality program is key, says Dodge. ‘The long-term impact,’ he says, ‘depends entirely on quality and how well elementary schools build on the foundations set in pre-K.'”
The political dynamic seems to have changed since this Washington Post article was published almost a year ago, but see Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s discussion of preschool quality and wraparound services for parents as he describes his administration’s work on early education in Chicago.
Too many Republicans today ridicule the value of early education. That would come as a shock to their parents, many of whom, no doubt, read to them when they were young and made sure they had many educational experiences. Democrats, on the other hand, want universal early education and are willing to spend whatever is required. But more money for more slots will not automatically achieve the goal of preparing children to learn.
Largely missing from this debate are the essential role that parents play in their children’s education and the importance of the quality of a child’s early learning experience. Parents must be engaged or their children will be shortchanged. In addition, the hours in preschool must provide high-quality learning built around best practices so the time does not become just expensive babysitting.
Lisa Kuh, Somerville’s Director of Early Education, has started the Somerville Early Education blog. For a good introduction and number of helpful links, see two posts Lisa wrote on Executive Function & 21st Century Skills:
In Lisa’s words:
This post is the first in a series about how children move through environments and the role of self-directed activity, classroom schedules and room arrangement, and what “counts” as choice time in school and at home.
A young child moves across the room to put away her supply box. For some of us a simple task. For the young child, a potential obstacle course where many things can happen along the way – an accidental bump of a peer turns into a conflict; a joyful conversation with a friend ensues; difficulty figuring out how to get from one side of the room to another during a high traffic time. We take for granted what goes into getting from one place to the next. But young children need time and modeling to make these excursions successful and also develop important cognitive and motor abilities while doing so.
Executive function skills support planning, completing and evaluating tasks, and oversee communication exchanges (Cognitive Connections – Sarah Ward, FAQ). Executive function is like the air traffic control system for the body and mind (The Art of Control). It helps us to understand a series of steps such as: come into the classroom, put my things away, wash hands, go to the rug – and to make choices about how to approach tasks. Many children need previewing and practice for their executive function systems to work efficiently and for some children, this must be an important part of their day – and not just with arrival and clean up routines.