13% Return on Investment: New Research on 0-5 Programs

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

“Let the Kids Learn through Play” in the New York Times

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.

Live Streaming Event: The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education

I just learned that tomorrow’s convening at Harvard, The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education: Linking Science to Policy for a New Generation of Pre-Kindergarten, will be live-streamed at this URL. The event includes an impressive roster of presenters and discussants (LeadingEdge_flyer).

Five Practical Lessons about Birth–3rd Partnerships: Feedback Requested

A chief benefit of blogs is the interactive dialogue they can support. With the Birth–3rd Learning Hub, I have an opportunity to test ideas with people who are deeply involved in doing Birth–3rd work. A few weeks ago I posted a number of “lessons” based on the work thus far, giving examples of each to illustrate the central take-away. Here is a summary of these five take-aways:

  1. Community- and Relationship-Building are Necessary but not Sufficient
  2. Attending to the Imbalance of Power Requires Care
  3. Partnerships Need a “Backbone”
  4. Birth—3rd Improvement Requires District Early Childhood Capacity
  5. An Important Balance: Strategy with an Eye towards Capacity-Building

I’m very interested in learning about any experiences you have had that either support or challenge any of the points I make in this post. I invite you to share them via the comment section below. I’ll draw on your feedback in future posts. If you prefer to communicate with me directly, just put “private” in your comment, and I won’t make it public. Or email jacobsondl at gmail.com. Thanks for your help.

Quality of Words, Not Quantity, Is Crucial to Language Skills, Study Finds

From yesterday’s New York Times:

It has been nearly 20 years since a landmark education study found that by age 3, children from low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than more affluent children, putting them at an educational disadvantage before they even began school. The findings led to increased calls for publicly funded prekindergarten programs and dozens of campaigns urging parents to get chatty with their children.

Now, a growing body of research is challenging the notion that merely exposing poor children to more language is enough to overcome the deficits they face. The quality of the communication between children and their parents and caregivers, the researchers say, is of much greater importance than the number of words a child hears.

A study presented on Thursday at a White House conference on “bridging the word gap” found that among 2-year-olds from low-income families, quality interactions involving words — the use of shared symbols (“Look, a dog!”); rituals (“Want a bottle after your bath?”); and conversational fluency (“Yes, that is a bus!”) — were a far better predictor of language skills at age 3 than any other factor, including the quantity of words a child heard.

Quality of Words, Not Quantity, Is Crucial to Language Skills, Study Finds

Two-Generation Programs 2.0

The current issue of the Future of Children is on “Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms.” As the editors say in the introduction, “The two-generation model is based on the assumption that serving parents and children simultaneously with high-quality intervention programs would be more effective (and perhaps more efficient) than serving them individually.” 

See in particular the article by P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn on “Two-Generation Programs in the Twenty-First Century.” This piece describes a second wave (2.0) of Two-Generation programs that have, “sought to rectify the flaws of earlier efforts, largely by building strong connections between components for children and adults, by ensuring that children and adults receive services of equal duration and intensity, and by incorporating advances in both education and workforce development.” 

Two-generation programs are ambitious, but these articles prompt the question of whether there is a role for them in comprehensive Birth-Third efforts.  


May 13 Round-Up


Formative Assessment: Guidance for Early Childhood Policymakers. Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes at NIERR.
This policy report provides a guide and framework to early childhood policymakers considering formative assessment. The report defines formative assessment and outlines its process and application in the context of early childhood.  This guide provides a practical roadmap for decision-makers by offering several key questions to consider in the process of selecting, supporting, and using data to inform and improve instruction.

Resources for Early Learning. MA Department of Early Education and Care
This site provides engaging media-rich learning opportunities for educators, parents, and caregivers of children.

Lead Early Educators for Success by the Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group at Harvard is a series of briefs written for leaders dedicated to promoting children’s learning and development through high-quality early education. The series focuses on supporting early educators to cultivate high-quality learning environments by revisiting assumptions that guide current policies and practices, outlining common pitfalls, and presenting actionable strategies for pressing issues.

Making Space: The Value of Teacher Collaboration. The Rennie Center and EdVestors.
This report takes a look at how five Boston schools have successfully built teachers’ social capital, using the power of the collective to drive impressive gains in student performance. The findings support the consensus that purposeful teacher collaboration is a crucial element to improved school performance.

Family Engagement is Much More than Volunteering at School by Laura Bornfreund, New America Foundation.
“A recent commentary at the New York Times explored the findings from a study on parental involvement. The authors of the study found that the common types of parental involvement, like volunteering more at school or attending school events, don’t improve student achievement. And they’re right. “Random acts of parent involvement” aren’t enough. Other research shows that schools need to do more, especially to engage struggling families. The bottom line: Parent/family involvement must be ‘Beyond the Bake Sale.’” 

Nonprofit and For-Profit Partners Help Cincinnati Transform Its Failing Schools.
“Districts thinking of embracing this “whole child” approach to education might want to look at a nationally recognized model: Cincinnati Public Schools. Community schools are based on the idea that the school is the hub of a community – a place where students can get all their needs met, including health and dental care, counseling and after-school programs. The theory behind this approach is that when students’ needs are taken care of – whether it’s a toothache or stress in the family – they can focus on academics.


Last Tuesday representatives from six Massachusetts communities came together at the Turnaround with Wraparound Showcase to share their experiences improving the services and supports they provide to children and families. Select schools in Fall River, Holyoke, Lynn, Springfield, Wareham, and Worcester are all part of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (ESE) Wraparound Zone Initiative, in which improving “wraparound” services is a component of the turnaround strategies of low-performing schools.

For the leaders of Lowell’s Birth-Third initiative, it was important from the outset that their project be broad in scope, spanning the Birth-Third continuum by developing meaningful roles for family childcare providers, community-based preschools, and elementary schools.

Lowell’s communities of practice are a direct form of professional development that reaches both family childcare providers and community-based centers using the FCCERS-R and ECERS-R tools. They show that even within the boundary-spanning work that Birth-Third improvement requires there is a critical role for tailored work within sectors on improving quality.