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Research Results: Lasting Gains from Preschool

A new longitudinal study by researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, published in the journal Child Development, connects the dots between gains in early academic and self-regulatory skills made in preschool and, years later, grades in high school. Broadly, it suggests that providing support for preschool teachers in low-income settings can benefit children in ways that last into high school.

The study looked specifically at one preschool enrichment program: the Chicago School Readiness Project (CSRP), a teacher professional development and coaching intervention that ran in 35 Chicago Head Start centers in 2004 and 2005. The CSRP focused on improving classroom management and reducing teacher stress as means to indirectly improve student outcomes. The program had already been shown to have raised participants’ grades in high school.

The current research, by HGSE assistant professor Dana Charles McCoy, HGSE professor Stephanie Jones, and doctoral student Katie Gonzalez, suggests that the boost to students’ high school grades is due in part to early gains they made in vocabulary and math skills. The study also found some impacts on high school executive function (EF) skills — including students’ cognitive skills in impulse control and attention. These impacts were more ambiguous, but the findings suggest that early improvements in math skills, attributable to the preschool intervention, may, in turn, predict long-term gains in EF skills.

A link between early math skills and later executive function abilities has been suggested in a small but growing number of studies, the researchers say, but more work is needed to understand this inter-relation. The authors also note that this study looked at one specific type of program, serving one type of student; researchers will need to replicate these results in more diverse settings and program types.

But the study adds evidence of the lasting effects of incremental efforts to improve preschool programming — effects seen more than a decade later — and also of the benefits of relatively simple skill building during those early years.

Excerpted from “Lasting Gains from Preschool” in Usable Knowledge from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Read the full article in Usable Knowledge. Read the press release announcing the study’s results.

Source: Usable Knowlege | Lasting Gains from Preschool, https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/19/08/lasting-gains-preschool | ©2019 President and Fellows of Harvard College

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