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The abstracts used in this resource were taken from the websites of organizations supplying the referenced documents.

Ackerman, D. & Coley, R. (2012). State pre-K assessment policies: Issues and status. Policy information report. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Preschool education is increasingly being recognized as an integral part of efforts to ensure that all children enter school ready to learn and as a way to help close the achievement gaps that exist at the time children enter kindergarten. Such efforts are growing across the country. According to the most recent data, 54 different preschool initiatives in 40 states serve over one million children, almost double the number served eight years earlier. As these programs and efforts to monitor them have grown, a common focus is on documenting children's learning outcomes. Assessing young children, however, presents particular challenges. This report identifies and describes state-funded Pre-K assessment policies and programs operating in 2012 and discusses the special challenges related to assessing young children. A table for specific child outcome measures that must or may be used as per Pre-K Policy is appended.
(pdf, 1081 KB)

Barnett, W. S., Carolan, M. E., Fitzgerald, J., & Squires, J. H. (2011). The state of preschool 2011: State preschool yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER).
Over the past decade, state--funded pre--K has been education's biggest success story. Enrollment has grown dramatically and, in a number of states, so has quality. More children than ever are served by state programs aimed at preparing them to succeed in school and life. But after years of steady progress, our data show that many states' commitments to their youngest citizens are now slipping. This abstract does not show up on the website
(pdf, 7.6mb)

Barnett, S. (2013). Getting the facts right on pre-k and the president's pre-K proposal. Policy report. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, National Institute for Early Education Research.
Both science and public policy are best advanced based on impartial analysis of all the available evidence. No single study stands on its own, much less provides the definitive answers to policy questions on its own. This requires that scientists and policymakers consider all the evidence rather than simply select a few studies that fit their preconceived notions. The Obama administration's new universal Pre-K proposal first announced in the State of the Union address comports conclusions drawn from a full review of the evidence, just as one would hope. Critics of the Pre-K proposal in the ensuing debate have not followed the same approach. Their attacks on the President's proposal have been based on a few selected studies considered in isolation and when convenient, misinterpreted. This report from the National Institute for Early Education Research was prepared to set the record straight so that debate can proceed with accurate information. Specifically, the report reviews the research related to four key issues regarding the Pre-K proposal. These four issues are in brief: (1) Does high-quality Pre-K have lasting benefits?; (2) What is the evidence for the $7 to $1 return on investment in Pre-K?; (3) Do non-disadvantaged children benefit from Pre-K, and is a targeted or a universal approach to Pre-K more effective?; and (4) Are large-scale public programs, including Head Start, effective?
(pdf, 181 KB)

Barnett, S. (2008). Preschool education and its lasting effects: Research and policy implications. Boulder & Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Policy Interest Unit.
This brief reviews the research regarding the short-- and long--term effects of preschool education on young children's learning and development. The summarized research indicates that high quality preschool programs produce benefits in school success for all children, and are of particular benefit for disadvantaged children. State and local pre--k programs have been most effective. However, such programs may also exacerbate the achievement gap. Recommendations are offered.
(pdf, 439kb)

Blazer, C. (2012). Pre-kindergarten: Research-based recommendations for developing standards and factors contributing to school readiness gaps. Miami, FL: Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Research Services.
States across the country are developing pre-kindergarten standards that articulate expectations for preschooler's learning and development and define the manner in which services will be provided. There are two different types of standards: student outcome standards and program standards. Student outcome standards define the knowledge and skills children are expected to demonstrate by the end of their preschool year. Program standards describe characteristics of the preschool program, such as required teacher qualifications and student-teacher ratio. This Information Capsule provides a summary of research-based recommendations for policymakers and educators who are developing each type of standard. This paper also reviews factors that contribute to gaps in children's preschool readiness. The factor that has been found to correlate most highly with preschool learning disparities is family income level. Children's home learning environment, parents' level of educational attainment, ethnic and cultural influences, as well as parental beliefs and behaviors are also related to school readiness and school performance outcomes. However, since most of these factors are strongly tied to socioeconomic status, researchers have concluded that income level is the most powerful predictor of children's educational success. A brief discussion of the research, indicating that participation in high-quality preschool programs can significantly reduce early learning disparities by diminishing the negative effects of family and environmental risk factors, is included. Finally, a description of Miami-Dade County Public Schools' Pre-K programs is provided
(pdf, 96 KB)

Boylan, E., & White, S. (2010). Formula for success: Adding high-quality pre-k to state school funding formulas. Washington, DC: Pew Center on the States.
Families, teachers and policy makers increasingly understand that high-quality pre-kindergarten is a critical part of children's educational experience. In 13 states and the District of Columbia, Pre-K programs are financed through the school funding formula. This report, co-written with the Education Law Center, discussed the benefits and challenges integrating early education into states' general education funding structures and explored the different models for employing such a strategy. Individual sections contain footnotes
(pdf, 1081KB)

Buenafe, A. (2011). Pre-K as a school turnaround strategy. Washington, DC: Pew Center on the States.
Across the nation, state and local school systems, recognizing the strong and growing evidence of pre-kindergarten's effectiveness in closing achievement gaps and improving school performance, are implementing early learning programs as part of their education reform efforts. In low-performing districts, pre-K has emerged as a promising turnaround strategy. As members of Congress discuss re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) they can look at these initiatives to see how strategic use of limited funds for proven early education programs can raise student achievment, and to identify opportunities for smart federal investment.
(pdf, 563kb)

Buysse, V., Peisner-Feinberg, E., & Burchinal, M. (2012). Recognition & response: Developing and evaluating a model of RTI for pre-k. Evanston. IL: Society for Research in Educational Effectiveness.
The Recognition & Response (R&R) model was developed and is being validated by a research team at the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Development and Innovation (IES Goal 2) study reported in this paper builds on an existing line of research that is focused on further development and evaluation of the R&R model, including adaptations for mathematics instruction, the integration of learning and behavioral interventions/supports, and instructional practices to support dual language learners, in addition to the current emphasis on language and literacy instruction. The study reported in this document is the second of two related studies. The purpose of this study was to design and evaluate the R&R model for use by pre-k teachers to address children's language/literacy skills. The study evaluated the feasibility, acceptability, implementation fidelity, and potential for improved classroom and child outcomes of this approach. Results suggest that the R&R system offers evidence of promise for improving language and literacy outcomes for young children. Positive effects were found in the growth rates for target children compared to their peers on formative assessment and standardized measures. Moreover, positive effects were found across different populations of children. Although these studies did not provide the opportunity for a true control group (given the requirements for Goal 2 Development and Innovation studies), the results clearly provide empirical evidence of the promise of R&R as an educational intervention for pre-k, and suggest that further research of the efficacy of this model is warranted.
(pdf, 463KB)

Cannon, J., & Karoly, L. (2007). The promise of preschool for narrowing readiness and achievement gaps among California children. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
This research brief summarizes an evaluation of the potential of preschool to make a difference in the achievement gaps among California children in order to assess the potential expansion of public funding for preschool education.
(pdf, 153kb)

Chambers, B., Cheung, A., Slavin, R., Smith, D., & Laurenzano, M. (2010). Effective early childhood education programs: A systematic review. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, The Best Evidence Encyclopedia, Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Center for Data Driven Reform in Education.
This report systematically reviews research on the outcomes of programs that teach young children in a group setting before they begin kindergarten. The purpose of the review is to assist educators and policymakers in selecting the types of programs to implement and to inform researchers about the current evidence on early childhood programs and guide further research.
(pdf, 1.2mb)

Chernoff, J., Flanagan, K., McPhee, C., & Park, J. (2007). Preschool: First findings from the third follow up of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort. (NCES 2008--025) Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.
The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) is designed to provide detailed information on children's development, health, and early learning experiences in the years leading up to entry into school. The ECLS-B is the first nationally representative study within the United States to directly assess children's early mental and physical development, the quality of their early care and education settings, and the contributions of their fathers, as well as their mothers, in their lives. The children participating in the ECLS-B are followed from birth through kindergarten entry. This report offers selected results; a number of other reports are available.
(pdf, 582kb)

Christina, R., & Goodman, J. (2005). Going to scale with high-quality early education. Pittsburg, PA: RAND.
This report is an initial effort to describe efforts of a number of states that are seeking to create statewide systems of high-quality pre-kindergarten services, as well as some of the progress they have made in doing so. Focusing on the efforts of a sample of eight U.S. states, it examines the policy choices that states have made when implementing pre-K in an environment of fiscal uncertainty and discusses policy and practice issues identified by respondents in the sector. The report should be of interest to policymakers and other stakeholders who are seeking to ensure that scaled-up pre-K is of high quality.
(pdf, 311kb)

Council of Chief State School Officers. (2009). A quiet crisis: The urgent need to build early childhood systems and quality programs for children birth to age five. Washington, DC: Author.
This document is focused on the urgent need to build a strong early childhood system that includes family and community engagement. It provides a clear analysis of issues and research related to school readiness.
(pdf, 723kb)

Early Childhood Advisory Council to the Massachusetts Board of Education. (2003). Guidelines for preschool learning experiences. Malden, MA: Office of School Readiness, Massachusetts Board of Education: Author.
(From the introduction) The guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences is based on Massachusetts' standards for Pre-K in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. They reflect individual content areas, but shoud be used in an integrated way for planning. They are designed to be used by teachers and administrators to plan and evaluate curriculum.
(pdf, 2.8mb)

Education Commission of the States (ECS). (2010). State kindergarten statutes: State profiles. Denver, CO: Author.
This is a compilation of kindergarten statutes from all 50 states. A mapped version is included, as well as a print version.
(pdf, 885kb)

Garcia, E. & Gonzales, D. (2006). Pre-K and Latinos: The foundation for America's future. Washington, DC: Pre-K Now.
This report provides stakeholders with information on how Hispanic children compare academically with their peers. If states are to meet the standards and requirements of No Child Left Behind, Hispanic children must have access to high-quality pre-K programs. The document describes programs, practices and policies that support Hispanic children's education and achievement and action steps for policy makers are offered on the following topics: effective outreach, home language, bilingual staff, parent involvement, enrollment requirements, research, local resources, curricula, diverse delivery, and eligibility criteria.
(pdf, 539kb)

Gormley, W. (2008). The effects of Oklahoma's universal pre-kindergarten program on Hispanic children. Washington, DC: Center for Research on Children in the US.
This document offers data from William Gormley's evaluation of the Tulsa pre-K program. Results indicate that Hispanic students whose parents speak Spanish at home gain the most from a high-quality pre-K program, with substantial improvements in pre-reading, pre-writing, and pre-math skills for Hispanic students overall.
(pdf, 171kb)

Haskins, R., & Rouse, C. (2005). Closing achievement gaps. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, The Future of Children.
By the time black and Hispanic children reach kindergarten, they are on average already far behind their more advantaged peers in reading and math readiness. Such disparities in achievement persist or even increase during the school years. Educational programs for parents and preschool education programs for children have the potential to narrow these disparities by at least half. This policy brief discusses the history of preschool interventions and supportive programs for parents, examines the role of high quality preschool programs in the school readiness of disadvantaged children, and details the costs associated with well-planned preschool programs. Recommendations for next steps to provide quality preschool programs for children are offered.
(pdf, 234kb)

Heckman, J. (2010). The economics of inequality: The value of early childhood education. American Educator, 35(1), 31-35.
Educational equity is often discussed as a moral issue. Another way to think about equity is as a way to promote productivity and economic efficiency. The evidence is quite clear that inequality in the development of human capabilities produces negative social and economic outcomes that can and should be prevented with investments in early childhood education, particularly targeted toward disadvantaged children and their families. (Taken from ERIC).
(pdf, 805kb)

Karoly, L. A., Greenwood, P. W., Everingham, S. S., Hoube, J., Kilburn, M. R., Rydell, C. P., et al. (1998). Investing in our children: What we know and don't know about the costs and benefits of early childhood interventions. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
This document synthesizes the results of a number of evaluation studies in an effort to determine whether early childhood interventions result in substantial benefits to participating children as they become adults, and whether they pay for themselves. Conclusions are that under carefully controlled conditions, early childhood interventions can yield substantial advantages to recipients. If these interventions can be sufficiently scaled up, the costs of the programs could be exceeded by subsequent savings to the government. Unfortunately, these conclusions rest on only a few methodologically sound studies. The authors argue for broader demonstrations accompanied by rigorous evaluations to resolve several important unknowns.
(pdf, 405kb)

Karoly, L., Kilburn, M. R., & Cannon, J. (2005). Early childhood interventions: Proven results, future promise. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
The authors consider the potential consequences of not investing additional resources in the lives of children, the range of early intervention programs, the demonstrated benefits of interventions with high-quality evaluations, the features associated with successful programs, and the returns to society associated with investing early in the lives of disadvantaged children. [Their] findings indicate that a body of sound research exists that can guide resource allocation decisions. This evidence base sheds light on the types of programs that have been demonstrated to be effective, the features associated with effective programs, and the potential for returns to society that exceed the resources invested in program delivery.
(pdf, 580kb)

Karoly, L., & Zellman, G. (2009). Promoting effective preschool programs. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
This is one in a series of policy briefs on key education issues prepared by the RAND Corporation for the Obama administration. Preschool education plays an important role in increasing school readiness and closing achievement gaps for children at risk. However, access to high-quality preschool programs varies greatly. Therefore, policymakers could use federal funds to support state efforts to improve preschool quality and access for the most disadvantaged children.
(pdf, 110kb)

Karoly, L. (2012). Building blocks for a strong preschool to early elementary education system. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
Testimony presented before the Council of the District of Columbia, Committee of the Whole on February 16, 2012. It highlight[s] what we know about differences in school readiness, the potential for high quality early learning experiences to prepare children for success in school, and the core building blocks of strong P-3 systems that address readiness gaps and support children's development as they progress through the early elementary grades.
(pdf, 286kb)

Kilburn, R., & Karoly, L. (2008). What does economics tell us about early childhood policy? Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
Advances in neuroscience, developmental psychology, and program evaluation have been combined to develop a unified framework that provides evidence-based guidance related to early childhood policy. This research shows how insights from the field of economics -- human capital theory and monetary payoffs -- also contribute to that framework.
(pdf, 618kb)

Laosa, L., (2005). Effects of preschool on educational achievement: NIEER working paper. Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
Can current school reform policies like the No Child Left Behind Act close the achievement gap? This paper addresses the origins of the achievement gap and the role prekindergarten can play in the public school system as it addresses the problem.
(pdf, 56kb)

LaParo, K., Thomason, A., Lower, J., Kintner-Duffy, V., &Cassidy, D. (2012). Examining the definition and measurement of quality in early childhood education: A review of studies using the ECERS-R from 2003 to 2010. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 14(1), 13 pages.
The field of early childhood education continues to grapple with the issue of understanding quality in classrooms. The lack of clarity in definition (or conceptualization) and related ability to assess (or operationalize) quality has contributed to a reliance on the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R), which is often interpreted to be synonymous with the quality of a classroom. Likewise, the ECERS-R (although a measurement tool) is often used to define quality. Because of the widespread use of this measure as an evaluation tool, early childhood programs have strived to achieve high ratings on this measure, and subsequently the item content of the ECERS-R has often become a focus for quality enhancement initiatives. The present study examines the definitions of quality (i.e., how quality is operationalized) in research studies using the ECERS-R over the past 8 years (2003-2010). A content analysis of 76 studies conducted in the United States indicates that studies using the ECERS-R to operationalize quality do not use a consistent definition; instead they conceptualize quality in a variety of ways ranging from quality is ECERs or classroom quality to environmental quality. In light of these varying definitions, implications for research and policy in early childhood education are discussed.
(pdf, 56KB)

Peisner-Feinberg, E., Schaaf, J., Hildebrandt, L., & La Forrett, D. (2013). Quality and characteristics of the North Carolina pre-kindergarten program. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.
The 2011-2012 evaluation study [of the North Carolina state Pre-K program] included information about characteristics of the NC Pre-K Program statewide and observations of classroom quality and teacher surveys in a random sample of 100 classrooms. The primary research questions addressed by this evaluation included: (1) What were the key characteristics of the local NC Pre-K programs?; (2) What was the quality of the NC Pre-K classrooms attended by children?; (3) What factors were associated with better quality?; and (4) To what extent were these results similar to past years under the More at Four Program? Key findings of this study include: (1) The NC Pre-K Program has not changed substantially in comparison to prior years of its predecessor program More at Four; (2) There were a few aspects in which the NC Pre-K Program differed in comparison to prior years of the More at Four Program; (3) NC Pre-K teachers generally reported being satisfied with their work environment; (4) NC Pre-K teachers reported that they planned to remain in the early childhood field; (5) The quality of classroom practices in NC Pre-K was in the medium to high range overall; and (6) The quality of the NC Pre-K classrooms was similar in almost all areas when compared to recent years of More at Four.
(pdf, 1227KB)

Pew Center on the States. (2011). Transforming public education: Pathway to a pre-k-12 future. Washington, DC: Author.
This report challenges our nation's policy makers to transform public education by moving from a K-12 to a pre-K-12 system. This vision is grounded in rigorous research and informed by interviews with education experts, as well as lessons from Pew's decade-long initiative to advance high-quality pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds. The report also reflects work by leading scholars and institutions to identify the knowledge and skills students need to succeed in school and the teaching practices that most effectively develop them. Together, these analyses and perspectives form a compelling case for why America's education system must start earlier, with pre-k, to deliver the results that children, parents and taxpayers deserve.
(pdf, 1.4mb)

Riley-Ayers,S., Frede, E., Barnette, W.S., & Brennerman, K. (2011). Improving early education programs through data-based decision making. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research. Retrieved from
While state-funded preschool programs have been growing, reliable guidance on how best to study program effectiveness remains limited. This working paper from NIEER presents five options for studying program effectiveness, summarizing each option in chart form and providing estimated costs for each evaluation
(pdf, 375KB)

Schweinhardt, L., & Fulcher-Dawson, R. (2006). Investing in Michigan's future: Meeting the early childhood challenge. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University, The Education Policy Center.
This report presents results from research into the effects of early childhood programs on their participants, particularly low-income and at-risk children. The studies described offer the best evidence on the long-term effects of high quality early childhood programs. [The] returns on investments in high-quality early childhood education are dramatically larger than the returns on almost any other public investment, with a return of anywhere from four to seventeen dollars for every dollar spent on programs.
(pdf, 760kb)

Seifert, K. (2004). In Cognitive development and the education of young children. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: University of Manitoba.
This chapter is about how the cognitive development of young children can be affected by early childhood programs.

Tyler, K. (2012). The impact of the shifting knowledge base, from development to achievement, on early childhood education programs. Forum on Public Policy Online, 2012(1), 1-15.
Interest in child development as a knowledge base for early childhood education programs flourished in the 1970s as a result of the theories and philosophies of Jean Piaget and other cognitive developmentalists. During subsequent decades in America, reform movements emphasizing accountability and achievement became a political and social imperative, resulting in the 2002 U.S. Law No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The mandate of the NCLB emphasized consequential accountability, now permeating American schooling and curriculum development. The law's impact on early childhood education is discussed with selected professional judgments and data outlined particularly in federally designated Poor Black Belt Alabama counties. Finally, suggestions are offered regarding clarification of cognitive developmental theory with evidence of misunderstanding of Piaget's theory that may have weakened applicability to early childhood programs and curriculum. Political and professional discussions are included regarding modifications of the NCLB law allowing for regeneration of emphasis on child growth and development as a knowledge base for early childhood education.
(pdf, 259KB)

Vandell, D., Belsky, J., Burchinal, M., Steinberg, L., & Vandergrift, N. (2010). Do effects of early child care extend to age 15 years? Results from the NICHD study of early child care and youth development. Child Development, 81(3), 737--756.
Relations between nonrelative child care (birth to 4 1/2 years) and functioning at age 15 were examined (N = 1,364). Both quality and quantity of child care were linked to adolescent functioning. Effects were similar in size as those observed at younger ages. Higher quality care predicted higher cognitive-academic achievement at age 15, with escalating positive effects at higher levels of quality. The association between quality and achievement was mediated, in part, by earlier child-care effects on achievement. High-quality early child care also predicted youth reports of less externalizing behavior. More hours of nonrelative care predicted greater risk taking and impulsivity at age 15, relations that were partially mediated by earlier child-care effects on externalizing behaviors.
(pdf, 441kb)

Wat, A. (2010). The case for pre-K in education reform: A summary of program evaluation findings. Washington, DC: Pew Center on the States.
This document is a summary of findings from pre-K evaluations in California, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. These results show that high-quality pre-K is an essential part of each state and the nation's efforts to improve publicly funded education as a means to have a more productive, competitive workforce for the 21st century.
(pdf, 271kb)

What Works Clearinghouse Topic Review: Early Childhood Education.
The WWC review of early childhood education interventions examines the evidence of the effectiveness of center-based curricula and practices designed to improve children's school readiness. Items reviewed are intended to improve outcomes in: Cognition, Early reading/writing, Functional abilities, Language competencies, Mathematics achievement, Oral language, Phonological processing, and Social-emotional development.

Zellman, G. & Karoly, L. (2012). Incorporating child assessments into state early childhood quality improvement initiatives. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.
Identifies five strategies for incorporating child assessments into the design, implementation, and evaluation of initiatives designed to raise the quality of care in early care and education settings, such as quality rating and improvement systems.
(pdf, 137kb)


AIR: Early Learning Systems
The purpose of this website is to offer practical tools, resources, and methodologies to assist with planning, implementing, and evaluating preschool and other school readiness programs.

The Carolina Abecedarian Project
A website from Frank Porter Graham detailing the Abecedarian Study.