Most early care and education (ECE) programs serve 3-5 year olds, but enrolling children at younger ages has the potential to multiply the benefits of ECE enrollment. This study examined characteristics of children and family who enrolled as toddlers (18-35 months; n=450) versus preschoolers (36-48 months; n=2,356), then tested the impact of toddler enrollment in high-quality ECE on fall and spring preschool outcomes for English-only and Spanish dual language learners (DLLs). Groups were balanced using propensity score weights. Toddler enrollment was related differentially to parent education, special needs status, food insecurity, and single-parent household status for DLLs and English-dominant peers. Toddler entry was related to better English language skills (fall E.S.=0.13-0.47; spring E.S.=0.10-0.43) and lower teacher-rated self-control skills (fall E.S.=0.12-0.15; spring E.S.=0.12-0.19) than same language peers. English-only children who entered as toddlers were rated as more independent at preschool entry (E.S.=0.15). Differences were not observed in Spanish-language skills, child-teacher attachment, or behavior problems in preschool. (author abstract)
Is starting earlier better? A propensity score analysis of toddler-year impacts for English only and Spanish-speaking dual language learners
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