Long-term effects of early childhood programs on cognitive and school outcomes

By Barnett, W. S. (1995)

The extent to which early childhood programs produce long-term benefits in children’s cognitive development, socialization, and school success is a matter of some controversy. This article reviews 36 studies of both model demonstration projects and large-scale public programs to examine the long-term effects of these programs on children from low-income families. The review carefully considers issues related to research design. It includes studies of preschool education, Head Start, child care, and home visiting programs, and focuses primarily on the effects of program participation on children’s cognitive development. Results indicate that early childhood programs can produce large short-term benefits for children on intelligence quotient (IQ) and sizable long-term effects on school achievement, grade retention, placement in special education, and social adjustment. Not all programs produce these benefits, perhaps because of differences in quality and funding across programs. The article concludes with recommendations for future action.