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Kindergarten through grade 3 outcomes associated with participation in high-quality early care and education: A RCT follow-up study


An accepted conclusion is that children at risk for educational failure who participate in high-quality early care and education (ECE) enter kindergarten “more ready,” possessing skills comparable to their more advantaged peers. There is less consensus about longer-term outcomes with some studies finding continuation of early gains, while others report “fade out” by elementary school. This study investigated child outcomes, kindergarten through Grade 3, of 75 children randomly assigned as infants to either participate or not in an enhanced Early Head Start/Head Start program. It was hypothesized that the children who experienced this high-quality ECE would perform better than their control group peers across a range of measures. From kindergarten to Grade 3, children in the treatment group demonstrated higher skills in letter and word identification, vocabulary, oral comprehension, and math than control group children after controlling for child/family characteristics and classroom quality. Results for executive functioning were mixed with children in the treatment group showing higher skills on one of the two measures of executive function. No group differences were found for social emotional skills. This study contributes to the scant literature of longitudinal studies spanning infancy through to Grade 3. In addition to the findings of a general pattern of continuation of positive child outcomes in early academic skills associated with earlier high-quality ECE attendance, this study also contributes information about the potential size of impacts of contemporary ECE programs starting in infancy. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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