President targets 6 million children high quality preschool by 2020

Date Posted: 

October 8, 2014

FPG Poised to Support Expansion of Early Education and Care

Speaking about the economy at Northwestern University last week, President Obama unveiled a new educational objective: enrolling 6 million children in high-quality preschool by the end of the decade. “That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger,” said the President.

Research from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) and many other institutes and universities has long demonstrated the positive effects of high-quality early care and education. FPG’s Abecedarian Project provided comprehensive high-quality care and education for children birth to age 5, and decades later the economic, social, and health benefits have remained apparent. Other FPG studies have shown that even a single year in a pre-kindergarten program can help children while in the program and for several grades afterward.

“If we make high-quality preschool available to every child, not only will we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work, we’ll give them the start that they need to succeed in school, and earn higher wages, and form more stable families of their own,” said the President.

Many administrators across the country are designing and implementing new pre-k or early learning programs—or updating programs they already have in place. “Thirty states have raised pre-k funding on their own,” said the President earlier this year, during his State of the Union Address. “They know we can’t wait.”

In May, to meet the urgent need for guidance from researchers with experience in early childhood education and program evaluation, FPG launched the National Pre-K and Early Learning Evaluation Center. FPG senior scientist Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, the center’s director, has headed many evaluation studies of statewide pre-k programs, including the state of Georgia’s.

“Participating in Georgia’s Pre-K Program during the year prior to kindergarten had significant, positive effects on key measures of children’s language, literacy, and math skills,” said Peisner-Feinberg.

When Peisner-Feinberg’s team announced their findings from their latest evaluation of Georgia’s Pre-K Program, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, had praised the study as “very rigorous.” Peisner-Feinberg said this careful science is the foundation for her center as it helps states serve all children, including those with disabilities, those at risk, and those who are dual-language learners.

In addition to Georgia’s Pre-K Program, researchers also have found benefits for children in other statewide program evaluations, including NC Pre-K, which Peisner-Feinberg has studied since it opened as More at Four over a dozen years ago. “With North Carolina’s pre-k program, we have consistently found positive effects of participation on children’s performance in pre-k and kindergarten, as well as longer-term effects on reading and math skills at the end of third grade,” she said.

She also noted that FPG’s 13-year history of bringing research-based recommendations to North Carolina’s pre-kindergarten program has helped to ensure the program’s quality as it has grown.

“The ongoing NC Pre-K evaluations clearly show the importance of strong program standards that use evidence-based indicators,” Peisner-Feinberg said. “With new early learning programs and 30 states already moving ahead on pre-k, research and evaluation will be essential to guiding design and ensuring quality.”

Read more about FPG’s National Pre-K and Early Learning Evaluation Center

Read about FPG’s evaluation of NC Pre-K

Read about FPG’s evaluation of Georgia’s Pre-K Program

Read about FPG’s review of research on dual-language learners in Head Start and public pre-k programs

Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, Director
National Pre-K and Early Learning Evaluation Center
UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute

Original story by Dave Shaw posted on