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Seminal studies and reports:
The High/Scope Perry Preschool Project — Compared low-income children who attended the program, beginning in 1962, with those who did not. As adults, preschool participants had higher high school graduation rates, higher monthly earnings, less use of welfare and fewer arrests than those who didn’t attend the program. Also showed that preschool leads to taxpayer savings (on special education, public assistance, unemployment benefits and crime).
The Carolina Abecedarian Project — Carefully controlled scientific study of the potential benefits to poor children of early childhood education. Four cohorts of individuals, born between 1972 and 1977, were randomly assigned as infants to either the early education intervention group or the control group.
The Chicago Longitudinal Study (1986 to present) — A federally funded investigation of the effects of Chicago’s Child-Parent Center program. Since 1986, the study has followed 1,539 participants to determine the effects of government-funded early education programs on disadvantaged children.
“Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development,” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (1991 to present) — Collects information about different non-maternal child-care arrangements and determines how variations in child care are related to children’s development.
“Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children,” Carnegie Corporation of New York (1994) — Focuses on the lack of quality health and education services for children from birth to age 3; has spurred several state and local projects to improve programs for young children.
“Years of Promise: A Comprehensive Learning Strategy for America’s Children,” Carnegie Corporation of New York (1996) — Examines the pattern of underachievement among 3-to-10-year-olds; among the first to call for greater access to high-quality preschool education for all children.
“Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers,” National Research Council (2000) — Outlines the components of a well-planned preschool program, emphasizing that young children are more capable learners than previously thought; authors’ call for improvements among preschool teachers, such as requiring bachelor’s degrees, is still quoted by advocates.
“Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development,” National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2000) — Analyzes findings from brain research and emphasizes that early-learning programs need to pay as much attention to young children’s emotional growth and development as to their acquisition of academic skills; also seeks to clarify some of the hype among well-intentioned policymakers about “windows of opportunity” in young children’s brain development.
“The State of Preschool: State Preschool Yearbook,” National Institute for Early Education Research (2002 to present) — Published annually; profiles state-funded preschool programs in all 50 states. Useful for comparing how states stack up against one another in terms of spending, access and other measures.
Recent studies and reports:
“Effective Preschool Curricula and Teaching Strategies,” by Lisa Klein and Jane Knitzer, National Center for Children in Poverty (2006).
EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAM PROVIDERS
“A Center Piece of the Pre-K Puzzle: Providing State Prekindergarten in Child Care Centers,” National Women’s Law Center (2007) — Examines the role that child-care centers play in enrolling thousands of children in state-financed pre-k programs; recommends that financing cover the “full range” of a center’s expenses, including salaries for teachers that are comparable to those paid in public schools.
“A Diverse System Delivers for Pre-K: Lessons Learned in New York State,” Pre-K Now (2006) — Illustrates the success that New York has had in using a “mixed” system of delivering pre-k in both school and child-care sites, including the ability to reach more children and ensure quality improvements across various settings.
EARLY HEAD START
“Making a Difference in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers and Their Families: The Impacts of Early Head Start,” Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (2002) — A seven-year national evaluation of Early Head Start that shows the program promotes learning and the parenting that supports it within the first three years of life.
“The Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey” (Baby FACES), Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (2007-2012) — Starting in 2010, this study will release annual reports that discuss how children and families in 90 Early Head Start programs are faring over time.
“Dollars and Sense: A Review of Economic Analyses of Pre-K,” Pre-K Now (2007) — Straightforward analysis of the major studies used to make the economic argument for spending public dollars on preschool programs.
“Does It Pay to Invest in Preschool for All? Analyzing Return-on-Investment in Three States,” by Clive R. Belfield (2006) — Measures the fiscal impacts of achieving universal availability. Concludes that projected benefits from expanding state-funded pre-kindergarten programs toward universality easily outweigh estimated costs in all three states (Massachusetts, Ohio and Wisconsin).
“An Economic Analysis of Pre-K in Arkansas,” by Clive R. Belfield (2006) — Concludes that expanding the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) preschool education program makes sound economic sense.
“Funding the Future: States’ Approaches to Pre-K Finance,” Pre-K Now (2008) — Useful resource on the variety of funding strategies and mechanisms states are using to pay for preschool programs.
National Head Start Impact Study and Follow-Up, 2000-2010 — A longitudinal study involving approximately 5,000 3- and 4-year-old preschool children. Seeks to determine how Head Start affects the school readiness of children in the program (compared to children not enrolled in Head Start), as well as under which conditions Head Start works best and for which children.
“The Battle Over Head Start: What the Research Shows,” by W. Steven Barnett (2002) — Addresses claim that Head Start produces no lasting educational benefits. Reviews research and concludes that Head Start produces substantial long-term educational benefits.
THE MIDDLE CLASS
“The Pre-K Pinch: Early Education and the Middle Class,” by Albert Wat (2008) — Shows that eligibility requirements and high costs lead middle-class families to sacrifice basic household needs to pay for early education and care for their children, or to settle for low-quality options with unproven benefits.
“Para Nuestros Niños: Expanding and Improving Early Education for Hispanics,” National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics (2007) — Provides a demographic profile of young Hispanic children in the United States and calls for greater efforts to improve preschool participation among Hispanic children.
“Inside the Pre-K Classroom: A Study of Staffing and Stability in State-Funded Prekindergarten Programs,” Center for the Child Care Workforce (2002) — Finds that pre-k teachers working in school sites earn more, are better educated, and stay in their jobs longer than those working in the private sector; calls for state pre-k programs to set uniform teacher-qualification requirements and pay levels.
“The Effects of Oklahoma’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program on Hispanic Children,” by William T. Gormley, Jr. (2008) — Assesses effectiveness of Tulsa Public Schools pre-k program. Shows the value of high-quality, school-based pre-k program for Hispanic children, especially English language learners. Key reasons for Tulsa’s success are strong levels of instructional support and emphasis on academic skills.