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What Does Science Tell Us About Prekindergarten?

April 20, 2017
Christina A. Samuels
Education Week

In 2013, then-U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated that high-quality preschool produced a return of $7 for every $1 invested.

Two years later, researchers studying the Tennessee prekindergarten program found that the effects of that program appeared to fade by 3rd grade.

Which assessment should policy makers follow? Is early-education the key to future success, or has its effectiveness been overblown?

Earlier this week, a group of  early-childhood researchers who are well-known in the field attempted to answer that question. In “Puzzling It Out: The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects,”  they offered a nuanced take on the value of prekindergarten through six “consensus statements.”

According to the researchers, many different types of programs leave children more ready for school at the end of their prekindergarten year than other children who did not attend such programs. But prekindergarten alone cannot sustain those learning gains, they agree—strong elementary school programs are also important.

Read the full Brookings Institution report, The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects, including a chapter by NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D.