Early Learning, Later Success: The Abecedarian Study
On October 21, 1999, researchers from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center released a report that demonstrates long-lasting benefits for children enrolled in an experimental early education program. Of the 111 children studied, 57 children were continuously enrolled from infancy through age 5 years in a high-quality early childhood program. The program's key components included good adult-child ratios, ongoing professional development and salaries for staff based on the public school payscale, and an individualized curriculum designed to enhance children's abilities through learning games. The other 54 children constituted the control group and did not receive services.
Researchers followed these children until age 21. Their findings go beyond demonstrating school readiness and success to identifying positive educational and social outcomes during young adulthood. The longitudinal study recently compared the treated group with the control group and found significant differences in their abilities and achievements.
At age 21 those who received early intervention were more likely to:
- Score higher on IQ, reading, and math tests
- Be enrolled in or graduated from a 4 year college
- Delay parenthood
- Be gainfully employed
Researchers' policy recommendations include:
- Early intervention for children in poverty
- Early childhood services comparable to those provided through the Abecedarian Project
- Quality child care beginning in infancy
- Well-trained staff
- Research on children's early learning
- Increased resources in services and high-quality staff
Researchers attribute the success of the project to the early intervention, sustained services, and investments in quality, all of which add to both the cost and the value of the program. They suggest that the project is one model for early childhood education that could be replicated for approximately $11,000 per year per child. While the investment is significant, communities that commit to high-quality education beginning from infancy can expect lower costs associated with low-academic achievement, special education, and teen pregnancy.
A press release, powerpoint presentation and Executive Summary of the
report, Early Learning, Later Success: The Abecedarian Study, is available
on the Web site of
the Frank Porter Graham Center.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. © 2008 NAEYC
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