“The sooner the better” is the perfect tag line for early childhood education. There is no magic bullet to ensure a lifetime of self-fulfillment in personal and career terms. But rigorous research shows that high-quality early childhood education is an extraordinarily powerful means to promote continued success in school, in the workplace, and also in social and civic realms.
It may seem surprising, but the experiences of children in their early years have disproportionately large impacts relative to experiences during their school years and beyond. If children lag in those early years, chances are that they will never catch up. Remediation of deficiencies in learning of all types is far more difficult and expensive than learning early on. The good news is that high-quality programs focused on early childhood years can have powerful long-term impacts for all racial and economic groups across the country.
Professor Susanna Loeb at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, in collaboration with Daphna Bassok, wrote an extensive review covering studies on early childhood education and achievement gaps based on it. The White House issued a report last December that also summarizes research from a wide variety of studies, and includes proposed actions to meet national needs in this arena.
Perhaps the most often cited study is the HighScope Perry preschool experiment that assigned randomly 123 at-risk low income black students to either a control group or a high-quality, two year pre-school program. These students were followed from ages three through 50. The impact of the pre-school program was powerful. Of those who participated in the program, 65% graduated from high school compared to 45% in the control group. By age 40, the annual income of those who were in the program was $20,800 compared to $15,300 in the control group. As the Loeb and Bassok article states, the study showed that those in the program “were more likely to be employed, to raise their own children, to own a home or a car, and to be far less likely to experience arrests or utilize drugs.”
Read the full article in Forbes.