Improving child outcomes through high quality early learning programs
High quality early learning programs promote the developmental and academic success of young children birth through third grade. Research points to key factors that influence child outcomes, including the professional expertise of the adults, the rigor of curriculum based standards, the involvement of families, and the attention to the social-emotional and physical health needs of children. A preponderance of evidence has emerged on the effects of well-implemented early learning programs to inform state and local decision-makers.
Related Resources and Websites
New! Milestones matter! This CDC application allows users to track a child’s milestones from age 2 months to 5 years with easy-to-use illustrated checklists; includes tips from CDC for encouraging development; and what to do if concerned about how a child is developing. Photos and videos illustrate each milestone and make tracking them easy and fun! Download the Milestone Tracker app from the App Store or Google Play!
New! America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2017 presents key indicators in seven domains: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health.
A Better Start: Why Classroom Diversity Matters in Early Education. This resource summarizes what we know about racial and economic diversity in Head Start and state pre-K classrooms, discusses how diversity and quality are linked, and recommends steps policymakers can take to increase diversity in preschool classrooms. [author abstract]
Academic Content, Student Learning, and the Persistence of Preschool Effects. This study examines the relationship between academic content coverage in kindergarten and student achievement. The authors examine the association between reading and mathematics content coverage in kindergarten and student learning, both overall and for students who attended preschool, Head Start, or participated in other child care prior to kindergarten entry. They found that all children benefit from exposure to advanced content in reading and mathematics and that students do not benefit from basic content coverage. Interestingly, this is true regardless of whether they attended preschool, began kindergarten with more advanced skills, or are from families with low income. Policy implications are discussed.
Addressing Early Childhood Emotional and Behavioral Problems supports a policy statement from the American Association of Pediatrics on early childhood emotional and behavioral issues.This resource reviews data on approaches to addressing emotional, behavioral, and relationship problems.
America’s Chidren in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016 presents key indicators of children’s well-being in seven domains: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education and health.
Being Black Is Not a Risk Factor This report is designed to challenge the prevailing discourse about African-American children–one which overemphasizes limitations and deficits and does not draw upon the considerable strengths, assets and resilience demonstrated by our children, families and communities.The report, which addresses the needs of policymakers, advocates, principals, teachers, parents and others, weaves together three critical elements: essays from experts that focus on using our children’s, families’ and communities’ strengths to improve outcomes for Black children, “points of Proof” from organizations that serve not as exceptions, but as examples of places where Black children and families are succeeding, and data points that indicate how our children and families are doing across a range of measures.
The Cognitive Development of Young Dual Language Learners: A Critical Review of the Research. This four-page research brief highlight findings from a study that reviewed existing research on the cognitive development of young dual language learners. It also outlines gaps and methodological concerns present in the existing research.
Early School Readiness: Indicators on Children and Youth looks at parent reports of children’s competence in four cognitive and early literacy school readiness skills: (1) recognizing all letters; (2) counting to 20 or higher; (3) writing his or her name; and (4) reading words in books. Children ages three to six who are not yet in kindergarten are included in the analysis. [author abstract]
Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness. This article in the Journal of Public Health describes a study that finds “statistically significant associations between measured social-emotional skills in kindergarten and key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.”
Effects of Georgia’s Pre‐K Program on Children’s School Readiness Skills: Findings from the 2012–2013 Evaluation Study. This report from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC, outlines findings from a study of nearly 1,200 children in Georgia. The study found that Georgia’s Pre-K Program produces significant positive outcomes for children, regardless of family income level or English language skills. There were strong results for language, literacy, math, and general knowledge for students enrolled in the state’s universal pre-k program.
The Effects of Tulsa’s CAP Head Start Program on Middle-School Academic Outcomes and Progress presents evidence pertinent to current debates about the lasting impacts of early childhood educational interventions and, specifically, Head Start. A group of students who were first studied to examine the immediate impacts of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Community Action Project (CAP) Head Start program were followed-up in middle school, primarily as 8th graders. [author abstract]
Equity and Excellence: African-American Children’s Access to Quality Preschool This report released by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans (WHIEEAA), discusses the disparities in access to high-quality early childhood education experiences for African-American children and offers recommendations to expand opportunities and address the achievement gap.
Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers. This CDC website is a database of useful information outlining solutions to common parenting challenges. It provides videos, guides, and tips on various parenting techniques.
Fostering and Measuring Skills: Interventions That Improve Character and Cognition. This working report, authored by James Heckman and Tim Kautz, reviews interventions that improve character and cognitive skills.
Future of Children: Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms. This issue of the Future of Our Children assesses past and current two-generation programs, and identifies mechanisms and pathways through which parents and the home environment can influence children’s development. These include: stress, education, health, income, employment, and assets.
The Healthy Child: Assembly Required. Kathleen Gallagher, a TEDxUNC 2015 Faculty Speaker, talks about about the assembly required in order to build physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially healthy children.
Helping Young Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: Policies and Strategies for Early Care and Education examines the effects of trauma on young children and presents strategies for professionals who work with these children and provides recommendations for policymakers who want to promote trauma-informed care for this vulnerable group.
The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8: A Focus on Literacy and Math Achievement Outcomes and Social-Emotional Skills. This report from MDRC summarizes research conducted primarily over the past 10 years on how families’ involvement in children’s learning and development through activities at home and at school affects the literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional skills of children ages 3 to 8. A total of 95 studies of family involvement are reviewed. These include both descriptive, nonintervention studies of the actions families take at home and at school and intervention studies of practices that guide families to conduct activities that strengthen young children’s literacy and math learning.
Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Initiatives on Special Education Placements in Third Grade. This report studies the relationship between early childhood initiatives and the likelihood of placement into special education classes. Researchers examined two programs in North Carolina and found that both programs significantly reduced the likelihood of special education placements, resulting in cost savings to the state as well as improved third grade outcomes.
Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Programs and Policies on Educational Outcomes in Elementary School presents findings from an evaluation of North Carolina’s Smart Start and More at Four early childhood programs. It found positive impacts on reading and math tests scores as well as reductions in special education and grade retention in each grade through the end of elementary school. It found that effect sizes grew or held steady and that positive effects were found for both high- and low-poverty families.
The Importance of Early Childhood. This video from the Brookings Institution covers the global benefits of investing in Early Childhood Development for children, families, and society. It covers investing in maternal health, child nutrition, parental stimulation, and preschool education. Benefits range from improved intellectual and physical development for children, to reduced inequality. The video also discusses barriers to investment and ways to combat them.
Including Relationship-Based Care Practices in Infant-Toddler Care: Implications for Practice and Policy features insights into primary caregiving and continuity of care as well as examples of early childhood organizations and programs that support relationship-based care practices. It also includes a review of federal and state policies and tools for policymakers.
Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities: A Synthesis of the Contributions from the Institute of Education Sciences Research Centers. The report from the Institute of Education Science describes what has been learned regarding the improvement of reading outcomes for children with or at risk for reading disabilities through research funded by the Institute’s National Center for Education Research and National Center for Special Education Research and published in peer-reviewed outlets through December 2011. The synthesis describes contributions to the knowledge base produced by IES-funded research across four focal areas: assessment, basic cognitive and linguistic processes, intervention, and professional development.
Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education This policy brief summarizes the most recent rigorous research for inclusion in the important role preschool education contributes to student academic growth as well as social and emotional outcomes. The authors can state with confidence and evidence that preschool programs can have a substantial impact on early learning and development for not only low-income families, but on students coming from a large socioeconomic range. High quality preschool education yields more in benefits to society than its initial cost, and studies suggest there is a positive return on investment for a range of differing preschool programs. In the end, there is evidence and a need to support quality preschool education for the benefit of our students and for our future.
The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education. This site houses videos from a convening held by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and was designed to allow participants to engage with the latest thinking, research, and practice in building and sustaining high quality pre–K systems, schools and classrooms. Explore how science and policy intersect to influence development in years 0-5 and the implications of the latest research for early childhood development and high-quality early education.
Markers that Matter: Success Indicators in Early Learning and Education This new report from The Foundation Strategy Group, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, outlines a set of 48 early childhood indicators that reflect healthy development of young children. The indicators can be used to support the healthy development of young children, to better understand and address inequities across racial and cultural groups, and to provide a common language that facilitates communication and coordination on behalf of all young children.
Media and Young Minds is a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics that “reviews the existing literature on television, videos, and mobile/interactive technologies; their potential for educational benefit; and related health concerns for young children (0 to 5 years of age). The statement also highlights areas in which pediatric providers can offer specific guidance to families in managing their young children’s media use, not only in terms of content or time limits, but also emphasizing the importance of parent–child shared media use and allowing the child time to take part in other developmentally healthy activities.
Multiples Aspects of Self-Regulation Uniquely Predict Mathematics in Early Elementary Grades. This study examined the relation of self-regulation measured prior to school entry to developing math and reading ability in prekindergarten through the second grade. While effects did not persist through second grade for reading, they did for mathematics.
National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families. This website houses publications from the center, as well as additional resources, to help programs and policy better serve low-income Hispanic children and families.
Preschool Academic Skills Grow Stronger When Quality of Instruction Improves presents an analysis of eight large studies of early care and education, finding “as the overall quality of instruction in preschool classrooms increases, children experience better outcomes across a range of skills—but the needle only moved on language and reading skills when instructional quality was at or above a threshold.”
Point of Entry: The Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline. This report highlights the trends around preschool discipline. It first details the interconnected factors that augment these trends, including the rise of zero-tolerance policies and mental health issues in young children while also exploring some of the factors that cause suspensions and expulsions. It also provides recommendations and approaches to increase the protective factors available.
Putting Education in “Educational” Apps: Lessons from the Science of Learning. This article proposes a framework for gauging whether or not an app can be considered educational based on what we know from the Science of Learning (how children learn best).
Preschool Teachers Can Use a PBS KIDS Transmedia Curriculum Supplement to Support Young Children’s Mathematics Learning: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. This report explores results from a randomized control trial of a PBS KIDS Transmedia Math Supplement, which included different media formats to interact with students and support math understanding, in 92 classrooms in New York City and San Francisco. The study found that children who used the program improved significantly in their understanding of early mathematics skills. Also, teachers who used the math supplement reported changes in comfort level with early mathematics concepts and technology.
Recent Trends in Income, Racial, and Ethnic School Readiness Gaps at Kindergarten Entry presents information on recent trends in racial/ethnic and income gaps in students’ math, read, self-control, approaches to learning, and externalizing behavior.
Relationships Among Socioeconomic Status, Children’s Pre-Academic Skills, and Parenting Differ Across Demographic Groups. This study investigates whether the association between socioeconomic status (family income and maternal education) and children’s preacademic skills (receptive language, expressive language, literacy, numeracy skills) as mediated by parenting (learning materials, language stimulation, and outside activities) varies across Euro-American, African American, Hispanic, and Asian children. The findings suggest that how certain parenting behaviors are interpreted may vary by cultural context and thus how such parenting behaviors mediate the associations between socioeconomic status and preacademic skills outcomes may vary by cultural group as well.
The Role of Fathers in Child Development. Data from the Family Life Project was examined to understand the impact of fathers’ language use on child vocabulary and applied problems scores in Kindergarten. They determined that “Fathers’ mean length of utterance predicted children’s vocabulary and applied problems scores above and beyond mothers’ language. Findings highlight the unique contribution of fathers to children’s early academic achievement.” The article discusses implications for future research, policy, and practice.
Seeding Reading. This series of articles and analysis from New America’s Education Policy Program and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop explore the intersection of technology and reading in the early childhood years.
Start Early to Build a Health Future: The Research Linking Early Learning and Health. This newest publication analyzes the latest research on the ways that early experiences, both beneficial and stressful, can have strong impacts on the health of the developing child, and offers research, policy and practice recommendations for supporting children’s lifelong health through high-quality early childhood education.
Supporting Immigrant Families’ Access to Prekindergarten. This detailed report draws on interviews conducted with over 40 prekindergarten directors and staff, directors of early childhood education programs, and other specialists to present strategies for improving prekindergarten enrollment among immigrant families and English Language Learners. This includes strategies for outreach to support prekindergarten enrollment; helping immigrant families overcome language, documentation, and other logistical barriers when enrolling their children in prekindergarten programs; and building trust and good relationships with immigrant parents and designing immigrant- and ELL-friendly programs.
Synthesis of IES Research on Early Intervention and Early Childhood Education This report from the Institute for Education Statistics, authored by Karen E. Diamond, Laura M. Justice, Robert S. Siegler, and Patricia A. Snyder, compiles finding from research grants on early intervention and education that were funded by the National Center for Education Research and National Center for Special Education Research since June 2010. The report presents evidence on classroom environment, instructional practices, measuring children’s skills, and professional development.
“Toxic Stress:” How Economic Inequality Hurts Child Development (and how early intervention can help). This presentation by Cybele Raver reviews the neuroscience of early socioemotional development in the context of toxic stress: frequent or prolonged adversity stemming from economic hardship, abuse, neglect, and poor caregiver mental health. She also shares evidence from recent evaluations of early interventions and discuss what we may do to mitigate the detrimental effects of toxic stress stemming from poverty. The presentation was given on July 30, 2015 at AIR.
Untangling the Terms and Skills Related to Executive Function and Self-Regulation in Early Childhood outlines key differences and similarities among various executive function and other regulation-related skills in research. Those differences and similarities are then presented in a visual map to illustrate relationships among these skills. The purpose of the framework is to help stakeholders in early learning and child development consider and articulate research, program, and policy recommendations regarding executive function and other regulation-related skills with more accuracy and transparency. [author abstract]
White House Summit on Early Education. This White House blog features videos, quotes, and information from Young Child Facts. This Pinterest profile was set up by Child Trends for the Alliance for Early Success. It houses infographics and other visuals about early childhood development and supportive early childhood policies. (also see @YoungChildFacts on Twitter)the White House Summit on Early Education, held December 10, 2014.
Young Children of Refugees in the United States: Integration Successes and Challenges offers information on integration outcomes for children of refugees and presents a demographic and socioeconomic data profile of children ages 10 and younger with refugee parents living in the United States in 2009-2013. It includes a section that examines pre-K enrollment.
The National Institute for Early Education Research’s website posts research on many early education topics, including resources related to outcomes for children who attend preschool and information and state-specific research on state-funded preschool programs evaluation. Please refer to the following relative to child outcomes: