The Effectiveness of Pre-K Programs

The Washington state legislature is considering providing more funding for early learning programs. This decision is based on research that shows the positive relationship between high quality early learning and  improved outcomes for children. The Department of Early Learning recently released data showing the positive effects of Washington’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) on the state’s most at risk children.

Even with this data, there are those who still question the effectiveness of early learning investment. Many early learning critics cite the findings from the  2010 National Head Start Impact Study as the reason for their position. However, there are questions about the National Head Start study, including:

        • The control group in the study was not truly a control group.  Well over half of the children who were in the “control group” attended various other early learning programs, which compromised the validity of findings comparing outcomes for these two groups of children.
        • One of the common arguments against early learning investment is that most of the benefits “fadeout” by third grade. However, this is not due to early learning being a short-term benefit as much as it should be contributed to students moving from a high quality early learning program to a low-quality elementary school.
        • Unlike many other studies, which have looked at the long-term social and emotional benefits of Head Start such as higher graduation rates, higher employment rates, and lower incarceration rates,  the Head Start study focused solely on shorter term academics.
        • The study occurred from 2002 to 2006, before Congress began an improvement process for Head Start in 2007.

Early learning is a critical investment with numerous benefits for children and society as whole. Read more about LEV’s position on early learning here.


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