For decades, researchers have debated the long-term impact of early childhood education, sharing evidence that while some children experience positive long-term outcomes, others see initial benefits fade out—or even experience detrimental outcomes.
Now, a study published in Education Sciences is adding to a growing body of research indicating that high-quality early care and learning programs can positively impact children for years into the future. But there is one caveat: children need to be enrolled early, in infancy or early toddlerhood, to reap these benefits.
Beginning in 2010, researchers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, followed a cohort of 37 children who were 19 months or younger when they enrolled in Tulsa Educare, a high-quality, early-learning program. A team from the Early Childhood Education Institute at the University of Oklahoma- Tulsa, regularly evaluated the children’s academic outcomes and executive function through the end of third grade.
These outcomes were then compared to a cohort of 38 children, serving as a control group, who were unable to get a spot at Tulsa Educare. (Children in the control group were cared for by relatives or family friends, enrolled in family childcare homes or attended a public-school preschool program or local Head Start program.)
“To me, the results show the importance of starting early if you want to have large and sustained effects from high-quality early childhood programs,” said Diane Horm, the founding director of the Early Childhood Education Institute at OU-Tulsa and a George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education.
A “sustained and large dose” of a high-quality early childhood program prior to kindergarten, Horm said, seems to be key to the lasting, positive results. “If we start early, we can prevent the achievement gap from forming.”
Diane M. Horm et al, Kindergarten through Grade 3 Outcomes Associated with Participation in High-Quality Early Care and Education: A RCT Follow-Up Study, Education Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.3390/educsci12120908
University of Oklahoma
Outcomes associated with participation in high-quality early care and education (2023, December 4)
retrieved 4 December 2023
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