New Report Series Shows that Quality is the Key for Effective Early Childhood Education
“Back to school” campaign highlights law enforcement’s interest in ensuring that children have access to QUALITY early childhood development opportunities
As millions of children head back to school across America, law enforcement leaders are releasing a series of new reports emphasizing that early care and education must be of high quality to ensure solid, long-term results. Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids are calling on state and federal policymakers to support efforts to strengthen the quality of early childhood services and to work to ensure that more young children have access to this critical range of services. Read the latest research on early care and education from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
A long-term study of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project in Ypsilanti, Michigan tracked disadvantaged children who attended high-quality preschool and a randomized control group of similar children left out. Over the course of nearly 40 years of follow-up, researchers found at age 27, those who had not been in the project were already five times more likely to be chronic lawbreakers with five or more arrests. By age 40, those who did not attend the program were two times more likely to become chronic offenders with more than 10 arrests and 50 percent more likely to be arrested for violent crimes. A cost-benefit analysis found that the Perry program returned to society an average of over $180,000 per child and provided a potential of $16 in benefits for every $1 invested.
The leaders also noted that the states currently spend far more to incarcerate prisoners than to provide early education to young children.
Over the last decade, many states have made significant progress in providing at-risk children with access to high-quality early care and education through state-funded pre-kindergarten and other early childhood development opportunities. Currently, however, only six state pre-k programs nationwide meet all 10 quality benchmarks established by the National Institute for Early Education Research, leaving room to improve key programs in most states.
The quality of the experience children have in child care or pre-kindergarten, and the caliber of the professionals who staff those programs, have an important influence on helping children start school with appropriate learning and social development skills. Nationally, the unmet need for these programs is enormous; with less than 30 percent of eligible children participating in Head Start and only one in six receiving child care assistance.
Key Ingredients for Quality
Highly-skilled teachers with appropriate compensation.
Comprehensive and age-appropriate curricula.
Strong family involvement and effective parent coaching.
Small staff-to-child ratios to ensure each child gets sufficient attention.
Small, age-appropriate class sizes.
Screening and referral services for health, developmental and behavior problems.
Nationwide, Head Start is also in the process of improving the quality of its programs. The most recent renewal of the Head Start Act, enacted in 2007, focused on improving the quality and accountability of the federally-funded early childhood Head Start and Early Head Start programs by increasing teacher qualification standards and setting aside 40 percent of new funding specifically for the purpose of improving quality. Another recent improvement requires lower-performing local Head Start grantees to “re-compete” for federal funding—that is to re-apply on a competitive basis with other providers, instead of receiving an automatic grant renewal.