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New Study Findings: Children Get Greater Boost in School, Thanks to High-Quality Preschool

October 28, 2003

Children who attend high quality, universal preschool programs enjoy better skills when they enter school, according to a powerful new Georgetown University study released today that points to teacher quality and pay in the public schools as likely reasons for improved readiness.

The study, funded in part by The Pew Charitable Trusts, through the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), represents an unusually rigorous examination of a large sample of children in the Tulsa, OK school district where preschool is offered to all children. NIEER is a nonpartisan preschool policy think tank in New Brunswick, NJ.

“As the U.S. Senate takes up Head Start reauthorization, this new study demonstrates the significance of licensed teachers with early education training — who are paid the same as other public school teachers — in the phenomenal gains made by Hispanics and African American children,” said Steve Barnett, NIEER director.

The Georgetown study used an unusual and distinctive methodology, providing greater confidence in its findings, he said. It brings unprecedented rigor to the study of preschool effects.

The findings of William Gormley, Jr. and others at Georgetown University reinforces the positive effects of high quality preschool found in other studies, said Barnett. Studies of such programs as the Chicago Child Parent Centers, South Carolina’s preschool program, and the New York Experimental Prekindergarten program found significant gains for children who attend high quality preschool programs in their educational, social and emotional lives.

The study found positive effects especially in the areas of language, cognitive and motor skills, said Barnett. The improved language skills included understanding of words and sentences; improved cognitive skills focused on the basics of learning – shapes, colors, numerals, meanings of words, etc., and the motor skills testing found evidence of improved abilities to copy, color with control, print and use scissors.

All of Oklahoma’s 543 school districts are eligible to receive state funding for preschool provided to four-year-olds. In 2002-03, 65 percent of all four-year-olds participated statewide. The Oklahoma program requires the use of licensed teachers with four-year college degrees in early childhood education, pay at the same rate as other public school teachers, maximum class sizes of 20 and a staff to child ratio of no more than 1 to 10. The study is available at


The National Institute for Early Education Research, a unit of Rutgers University, is a nonprofit, unbiased research institution, supported through a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Trusts ( support nonprofit activities in the areas of education, culture, the environment, health and human services, public policy and religion.