preschool years and family functioning when children were in elementary school.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Community Preventive Services Task Force strongly recommends publicly funded, center-based, comprehensive early childhood development programs for low-income children ages 3-5. This recommendation is based on evidence of the programs’ effectiveness in preventing developmental delay, as assessed by improvements in grade retention and placement in special education (Anderson, Shinn, et al., 2003).
Temple and Reynolds (2007) review the benefits of three comprehensive early education programs: the Perry Preschool Program and the Carolina Abecedarian project, both evaluated in randomized controlled trials, and the Child-Parent Centers (CPC), which employed a comparison condition. All three programs sought to improve educational attainment through a focus on cognitive and language skills and use of small class sizes and well-qualified teachers. The Perry Preschool Program and CPC included a parent intervention, but the Carolina Abecedarian project did not.
All three programs conducted follow-up assessments into adulthood, which included at least 87 percent of study participants. Important academic outcomes were found, including less use of special education services, less grade retention (for two of the programs), higher grade completion, a higher rate of high school graduation, and higher rates of college attendance. Other program effects included less child maltreatment (in the only program that assessed that outcome), fewer arrests by age 19 (two programs), higher rates of employment (in the two programs that assessed this outcome), and higher monthly earnings (assessed by one program). A study of adults who participated in the Abecedarian project also demonstrated reduced levels of depressive symptoms (McLaughlin, Campbell, et al., 2007). Temple and Reynolds (2007) conclude that the benefits of these programs exceeded their costs. A meta-analysis by Aos, Lieb, and colleagues (2004) of these and other early childhood education programs draws a similar conclusion (see also Chapter 9).
Although Head Start has been cited by CDC as an example of a feasible program that could diminish harm to young children from disadvantaged environments (Anderson, Shinn, et al., 2003), few experimental evaluations of the program have been conducted. Ludwig and Philips (2007) report only one recent randomized controlled trial of the program (Puma, Bell, et al., 2005) and one regression discontinuity design based on data from the 1970s and 1980s (Flay, Biglan, et al., 2005; Ludwig and Miller, 2007). Both studies showed that Head Start has some benefit in improving children’s cognitive functioning. The evidence from these studies, considered in the context of other research on the value of early childhood education, points to the likely value of universal access to Head Start for disadvantaged chil-