Bright Start TN Clearinghouse

Measure Of Success

High-Quality Early Care and Education Birth through Age 5

The major indicator for this measure of success is the percent of children birth to age five receiving high quality early care and education when not with their parents (Head Start, Child Care, Special Needs Care and TN-VPK).

Children who attend high-quality early education programs have better short-, medium- and long-term educational and economic outcomes than those who are not enrolled in high-quality programs. Short-term benefits of attending high quality preschool include higher math and English language arts proficiency. Research also shows that medium- and long-term benefits of high quality early childhood education include a decreased likelihood of special education placement and grade retention, more years of education completed, and a higher likelihood of both high school and college graduation. Long-term economic benefits include a higher likelihood of employment later in life among children who receive higher quality education. Targeted programs such as Abecedarian Project also provide evidence that high quality early education interventions can especially yield both short-term and lifelong benefits for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Recent studies, including several of Tennessee’s VPK program, suggest programs must be high quality in order to have a positive impact.

  • Pearman et al_2019_Teachers Schools and PreK: Analysis of 806 Tennessee pre-K students during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. Following the same students over time, the study measured academic performance using standardized test scores on math and English language arts proficiency at third grade. Results showed that pre-K students who went on to attend high quality early education, as defined as high quality schools with highly effective teachers, showed significantly higher academic performance by third grade than those who did not receive high quality early education.
  • McCoy et al_2017_Impact of Early Childhood Education: Meta-analysis of 22 experiments measuring the medium- and long-term effects of early childhood education between 1960 and 2016. Outcomes analyzed include high school graduation rates, placement in special education, and grade retention rates. Statistically significant results found that participation in early childhood education decreased rates of special education placement and grade retention, and increased graduation rates.
  • Sparling et al_2012_Adult Outcomes: The Abecedarian Project is a program which provides high-quality education to children with low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds. A study of 120 families, who were primarily Black/African American and who reported no income at the time of the study, followed infants from these families between the years of 1972 and 2009. Participants were split into two groups: a control group who did not enroll in the Abecedarian Project, and a treatment group who did enroll. Findings include higher rates of employment, a higher number of years of education completed, and a higher likelihood of college graduation among those who enrolled in the Abecedarian Project at age 30 follow-up.


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