State-Funded Pre-Kindergarten: What the Evidence Shows. 1. States use the evidence from randomized experiments to build their initiatives


The randomized experiment is the strongest research design for determining if a program causes the desired effects. Randomly assigning children either to a group that attends the target program or to a group that does not attend is necessary for knowing whether the program, as opposed to other factors, caused the measured outcomes. As yet, there are no randomized experiments that have been conducted within states to determine whether state-funded pre-kindergarten programs cause positive results for children, including in the area of school readiness. This will be an important next step for states to take in their research. States are increasingly recognizing the importance of randomized experiments in demonstrating the effectiveness of early childhood interventions and are using the results of widely-known and highly regarded randomized studies of early childhood programs and interventions (e.g., the Abecedarian Project, the Perry Preschool Study(23)) to motivate and inform their efforts to develop pre-kindergarten programs and school readiness initiatives. For example,

  • “High-quality preschool programs have been shown to dramatically raise children’s abilities at school entry, increase early and later achievement test scores, reduce grade repetition and placement in special education, and boost graduation rates. Some of the strongest evidence of long-term benefits is provided by the three longitudinal studies — the High/Scope Perry Preschool study, the Abecedarian study, and the Chicago Child-Parent Center(24) study.” From Abbott Preschool Program Implementation Guidelines, Office of Early Childhood Education, New Jersey Department of Education, February 2003(25)
  • “Most districts surveyed are convinced that Universal PreKindergarten for New York’s four-year-olds provides an excellent start to the formal education of children. Many believe that this early learning enhances children’s capacity to learn, including improving later elementary school performance. This view is consistent with recent early brain research findings including the just published study from the University of North Carolina/University of Alabama Abecedarian Project. That research demonstrates the long-term, positive impact of quality early education on young children. These same learning activities are incorporated in New York’s Universal PreKindergarten guidelines.” From Universal PreKindergarten Takes Off in New York State, New York State Department of Education, February 2002(26)
  • “Reading ability, cognitive skills, and college enrollment were among the gains documented in the landmark Abecedarian study, which compared progress of low-income children from a high-quality preschool with that of children who had not attended. Other positive effects included fewer instances of grade retention, decreased need for special education, and delayed parenthood.” From Ready, Set, Grow: A Framework for Universal Access to Quality Preschool in Illinois, Office of the Governor(27)

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