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Maximizing Returns from Pre-Kindergarten Education. Conference on Education and Economic Development Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland November 19, 2004 W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D. National Institute for Early Education Research (732) 932-4350, [email protected] . Overview.

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Maximizing returns from pre kindergarten education l.jpg
Maximizing Returns from Pre-Kindergarten Education

Conference on Education and Economic Development

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

November 19, 2004

W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D.

National Institute for Early Education Research

(732) 932-4350, [email protected]

Overview l.jpg


  • Trends and current landscape

  • Rationale for public investment

  • How to increase efficiency

    Efficiency determined by policies about:

  • Person—Who?

  • Process—How?

  • Context—What else?

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Trends and Current Landscape

  • Preschool education is growing steadily

  • Patchwork of public & private programs

  • Most public programs target the poor

  • Many poor children still not enrolled

  • Enrollment is lowest at moderate income

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Rationale for Public Investment in Pre-K

  • High Rates of Return

  • Large Externalities

  • Imperfect Information

  • Principal-Agent Problem

  • Myopia

  • Individual Risk

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Economic Benefits of Early Education


  • Increased achievement

  • Reduced grade repetition and special education

  • Increased educational attainment

  • Increased employment, productivity, and earnings

  • Less welfare dependency

  • Reduced crime and delinquency

    Some evidence

  • Less abuse and neglect

  • Increased maternal employment and earnings (child care)

  • Decreased health care costs and mortality

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Economic Returns to Pre-K for Disadvantaged Children

Cost Benefits B/C

Perry Pre-K $16,264 $277,631 17.07

Abecedarian $36,929 $139,571 3.78

Chicago $ 7,417 $ 52,936 7.14

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Person: Who Should Get Public Pre-K?

  • Targeting is costly and imperfect

    • Head Start misses most poor children

    • About half of Head Start children not poor

  • Benefits do not stop at the poverty line

    • Many nonpoor have similar problems

    • Benefits decrease gradually with income

    • Georgetown study of UPK in OK

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Educational Failure is Common for Middle Class Children

Middle class children have fairly high rates of the problems that Pre-K reduces for poor children.

IncomeRetention Dropout

Lowest 20% 17% 23%

20-80% 12% 11%

Highest 20% 8% 3%

Source:US Department of Education, NCES (1997). Dropout rates in the United States: 1995. Figures are multi-year averages.

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Process: Improving Quality and Outcomes in Pre-K

  • Outcomes of models not fully replicated

  • Teaching is inadequate

  • Teachers poorly qualified, poorly paid

  • Curriculum lacking

  • Class sizes sometimes too large

  • Standards and accountability needed

  • Leadership and supervision required

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Effects of Models v. Large Scale

Models Head Start/

Public School

Special Education 19.6 4.7**

Grade Repetition 14.9 8.4*

**p<.01, two tailed t-test with unequal variances

*p<.05, two-tailed t test with unequal variances

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Children’s Experiences in Three Curricula

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Process: Research Needs

  • Requires RCT’s

  • Age of start and years

  • Length of day and year

  • Fine tune class size and ratio

  • Fine tune staffing and support

  • Services beyond the classroom

  • Choice and competition

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Context: Changing policy, Changing World

K-12 policies must synchronize

Education is more important

NCLB requires closing the gap

High rates of poverty and low ed. persist

Nation needs higher productivity

Crime has become even more costly

Conclusions l.jpg

  • Public Pre-K will and should grow

  • Public Pre-K must be improved

  • Universal programs may be more efficient

  • Quality can and must be raised

  • Balanced curriculum is part of quality