If school is about learning, and learning starts at birth, then the idea that we expect Kindergarteners to meet their first teachers at age five is all wrong (English, 2018). There is increasing research being facilitated on early education with specific emphasis on the overall benefits it has on children. The range of benefits discussed in recent research include academic achievement, behavior, educational progression and attainment, delinquency and crime, and labor market success, among other domains (RAND, 2005).
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While much research is available on the outcomes of early childhood education, it is the objective of this paper is to focus on the range of benefits and outcomes of early childhood education on disadvantaged and underserved children.
In this literature review, I will discuss scholarly research findings which cover several elements of effective, quality early childhood education in underserved communities. This research covers topics such as how high-quality early education would narrow achievement gaps, lower involvement in the criminal justice system, and provide adequate return on financial investment for communities.
Although there is substantial research data detailing what early education programs need to have in order to provide effective, quality education through Kindergarten; one study, synthesized by the RAND corporation (2005), had some interesting and promising findings. In 2005, the RAND Corporation did a research brief outlining scientifically based, published research on the benefits of early childhood education. The brief compared twenty early education programs throughout the nation, which provide varied, but effective approaches to early education.
These programs used various interventions which span from prenatal services through Kindergarten readiness programs. According to an article, How Pre School Fights Poverty, Cynthia Lamy of ASCD.org, while the programs had various success in their methods, the research was able to conclude that each of the programs included a combination of the following elements: adequately trained, professionally educated caregivers/educators, smaller child-to-staff ratios, comprehensive and intensive services for children and families (Lamy, 2012). The information provided by this report details more about intervention features that generate better outcomes for children. This is significant because it equips policymakers and educators with valuable, scientifically sound data to achieve optimal designs for the children and families that they serve.
The overwhelming evidence shows that children who enter kindergarten behind are likely to remain behind throughout their educational careers and beyond. These gaps in achievement are difficult to close with K-12 education alone. An article published on Every Child Matters.org, discusses the importance of early education and closing long-standing achievement gaps. This article references a report by President’s Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors titled, The Economics of Early childhood Investments, in which it discusses why high quality, dependable, affordable, and accessible child care for children early on is important as we continue to see growth in both the opportunity and achievement gaps children face nationally.
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