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Recent early education news and updates

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New project hopes to learn which pre-K experiences lead to later school success

October 6, 2017
Linda Jacobson

Four-year-olds in Massachusetts are more likely to attend formal early-childhood education programs, such as Head Start or a pre-K class, than 3-year-olds, according to the early results of a new longitudinal early education study from researchers at Harvard University.

The findings, from a household survey, could suggest that more options are open to 4-year-olds or that parents are more motivated to enroll their children in preschool the year prior to kindergarten, the researchers say. Three-year-olds are just as likely to spend time in center-based programs as they are informal settings, such as friend, relative and neighbor care; a family child-care home; or at home with a parent.

The initial findings of the Early Learning Study, launched this past summer, confirm what most people already know — that 4-year-olds are more likely than 3-year-olds to be in formal early education programs. But over time, the project is expected to contribute to the body of research on early-childhood education by showing how the different settings children spend time in before school affects later learning and development.

The study will be of interest to school and district leaders, who clearly recognize that some children enter school with more skills and knowledge than others and often direct resources toward instructional programs to try to narrow those gaps. School districts are also increasingly offering pre-K programs or involved in community-wide efforts to improve educational opportunities and will benefit from knowledge on which practices in preschool classrooms are more likely to lead to long-term gains.

NIEER recently launched a multi-year study on the critical components of preschool policy and practice that result in lasting benefits for children, thanks to generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.