Drawing on his new report, Connecting the Steps: State Strategies to Ease the Transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten, New America’s Aaron Loewenberg writes in Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity:
“Transition activities such as teacher home visits; parent orientation sessions; and collaborative meetings and trainings between principals, child care center administrators, and pre-K and kindergarten teachers are key strategies for closing the persistent achievement gap between low-income students and their wealthier peers.
In fact, a 2005 study established a link between the number of transition activities schools facilitated prior to and near the beginning of the kindergarten year and gains in academic achievement by the end of the year. These positive gains were greatest for children whose families were low- or middle-income.
A separate study, which focused on pre-K programs, found a positive association between the number of transition activities undertaken by pre-K teachers and kindergarten teachers’ later perceptions of student skills, particularly those of low-income students. Unfortunately, while low-income children stand to benefit the most from a smooth transition to kindergarten, they are also the least likely to attend schools that provide meaningful transition activities.”
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.
As Paul Reville says, “What we actually have now is a felicitous dovetailing of our moral obligations and our economic imperatives.”
Here is another case in point countering the idea that all social services discourage work. From “Supply-Side Economics, but for Liberals” in the New York Times:
“Economists have often taken it as a given that there is an inherent trade-off in which the larger the social safety net, the fewer people will work …
But what if that framing is backward? Certain social welfare policies, according to an emerging body of research, may actually encourage more people to work and enable them to do so more productively …
Child care subsidies appear to work [this way]. It’s a pretty straightforward equation that when government intervention makes child care services cheaper than they would otherwise be, people who might otherwise stay home raising their children instead work. More women work in countries that subsidize child care and offer generous parental leave than in those that don’t …
For example, the food stamp program was introduced gradually in the United States from 1961 to 1975. [Researchers] have found that low-income children who benefited from the program were healthier and more likely to be working decades later than otherwise similar children in counties where the program arrived later. There is similar evidence of long-term economic benefits from high-quality childhood education.”
See the full article here.
The U.S. Department of Education recently released a set of case studies of PreK-3rd Alignment and Differentiated Instruction. The case studies are of the Boston Public Schools, the Chicago Child-Parent Centers, Early Works, FirstSchool, and the SEAL program.
The alignment efforts in these programs all emphasize developmentally-appropriate instruction and focus on building students’ vocabulary, oral language skills, and social-emotional skills. All of the programs organize their teachers in professional learning communities and support them with coaches. In addition to the findings across the five programs, the case studies at the end provide helpful detail about each model.
The New America Foundation’s Aaron Lowenberg provides a nice overview here.
From the Washington Post:
“Nobel Prize winner James Heckman’s research has played an important role in establishing that high-quality public preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds can more than pay for itself over the long term, as low-income children who attend are more likely to live productive lives. It’s an economic argument that has persuaded lawmakers from both parties to support early education initiatives.
Now Heckman has released new research showing that the return on investment is even higher for high-quality programs that care for low-income children from infancy to age 5. Children in such zero-to-five programs are more likely to graduate from high school, less likely to be incarcerated than their counterparts who stayed home or enrolled in low-quality programs, had higher IQs and were healthier during the course of their lives, according to the study released Monday.
All of that taken together leads to a significant savings to society, the study found.
The rate of return on the public investment in zero-to-five programs is 13 percent per year, Heckman and his colleagues estimate, up from an estimate of 7 percent to 10 percent per year for preschool programs that start at age 3.”
Washington Post article: https://go.edc.org/bx7p
Related Education Week article (see regarding gender differences and a few policy recommendations): https://go.edc.org/ja1t
Don’t miss Let the Kids Learn Through Play, which includes some interesting research and has been getting much attention since it appeared over the weekend.
Also, Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, includes early childhood education in his recent New York Times piece on social programs that have been shown to produce positive outcomes:
A body of research on the long-term effects of high-quality preschool programs and other early-childhood interventions, like home visits by health professionals, consistently finds that they improve a range of adult outcomes, from higher earnings to reduced crime rates. Other research has found that Head Start achieves similar results.