Research linking early intervention to both cognitive and socio-emotional gains has fueled the proliferation of early childhood programs across the country. In this section, you will find useful information about best practices in early learning: the National Early Learning Benchmarks, national research on pre-K, a list of national pre-K advocates, examples of models of success, and other resources that will offer you strategies you can apply when working in early education.

National Early Learning Benchmarks

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) conducts and communicates research to support high-quality, effective early childhood education for all young children. Such education enhances their physical, cognitive, and social development, and subsequent success in school and later life.  NIEER’s 2012 State Preschool Yearbook is the newest edition of the annual report profiling state-funded prekindergarten programs in the United States.

National Research on PreK

“Perry Preschool Study” (1962)

HighScope Educational Research Foundation

The multi-year study found that adults at age 40 who had the preschool program had higher earnings, were more likely to hold a job, committed fewer crimes, and were more likely to have earned a high school diploma than adults who did not have preschool.

“The Carolina Abecedarian Project” (1999)

UNC Chapel Hill, FPG Child Development Institute

The Carolina Abecedarian Project was conducted on four cohorts of individuals, born between 1972 and 1977, and included follow-up studies of the cohorts at age 12, 15, and 21.  The studies found that “important, long-lasting benefits” were associated with the program.

“Chicago Longitudinal Study” (1986)

Dr. Arthur Reynolds, University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development

This study, which has tracked participants of Chicago’s Child-Parent Center Program (CPC) up to age 32, has found significantly higher levels of school achievement and consumer skills, along with significantly lower rates of grade retention, special ed placement, and dropouts.

National PreK Advocates

Models of Success: State Collaborative PreK Programs

State of Oklahoma

Department of Education: Early Childhood and Parent Education

Oklahoma’s PreK program is one of oldest in the nation. The state directly allocates pre-K funds to their public school districts, who have the option to collaborate with local Head Start centers or private providers. 98% of Oklahoma’s districts participate in the program, and 71% of the state’s 4-year-olds are served as of 2012.

Research: The Effects of Oklahoma’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program on School Readiness (2004)

The CROCUS study focused on the Tulsa pre-K program and found significant academic gains for participating students. While these gains were found regardless of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, the greatest gains were found among students whose family income made them eligible for free lunch.

Research conducted by the Center for Research on Children in the United States (CROCUS) at Georgetown University

State of Georgia

Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL)

Unlike Oklahoma’s “district-based” pre-K funding strategy, Georgia uses a “center-based” strategy. Schools and child care providers – public or private – apply directly to the state for pre-K funding. Participating providers can be found in each of Georgia’s 159 counties. The program serves 55% of Georgia’s 4-year-olds.

Research: Georgia Study of Early Care and Education: Findings from Georgia’s PreK Program (2009)

The study found that Georgia’s Pre-K program participants had well-qualified teachers and leaders, and scored well in classroom environment, quality materials, and emotional support. The study also stated that additional improvements were needed to ensure that Georgia’s 4-year olds receive the highest quality of instruction.

Research conducted by the FPG Child Development Institute at UNC Chapel Hill

State of West Virginia

Department of Education: Office of Early Learning

West Virginia is one of only a few states that requires local collaborations for pre-K. Each county has a local collaboration “council” comprised of the local school district(s) and other providers. West Virginia also requires that at least 50% of pre-K services must be offered by community-based providers. 55% of the state’s 4-year-olds are served through this program.

Research: The Effects of West Virginia’s Early Education Program on Young Children’s School Readiness (2005)

Findings from West Virginia found significant improvement in children’s early language, literacy, and mathematical development.  These gains were found across ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

Research conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University