Group of preschoolers responds to their teacher

Early Childhood Education

Photo by Monkey Business/Fotolia

Success during the years of pre-k through third grade helps close the gap in school readiness; improves the chance for positive outcomes in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education; and saves government spending in the long run.

Evaluating early childhood education, however, is a difficult task. There are many elements at play: from assessing the home environment to addressing professional development challenges to determining the most effective way to measure quality. RAND Education examines a wide range of questions in order to help inform the debate on early childhood education:

  • What are effective programs for improving child outcomes (e.g., school readiness, later school success, health)?
  • How do you improve caregiver-child interactions?
  • If you invest in early childhood education, where will you see savings down the line (i.e., use of social programs and incarceration)?

Returns of $2 to $4 were typical for every dollar invested in early childhood programs.

Research in Action

  • In California, RAND's work provided a blueprint for California policymakers to address the demonstrated shortcomings of their state's early childhood education system, despite fiscal constraints.
  • The government in Cincinnati, Ohio, used RAND research to evaluate its preschool system—in support of the city’s effort to expand access to and raise the quality of preschool programs.
  • RAND research has also helped the states of Delaware and California inform changes to their quality rating and improvement system (QRIS).

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