- Students in grades 3-10 who participated in New Jersey’s Abbott Preschool Program showed higher achievement levels in language/literacy, math and science, as well as lower grade retention by grade 10, according to a study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, conducted by researchers from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers Graduate School of Education.
- The large-scale public pre-K program was implemented as part of a court-mandated reform of the state's education system and funding in 1998. According to the Early Childhood Research Quarterly study, the program was also designed to prevent fadeout, with its positive impacts lasting beyond 3rd grade.
- Participants in the study were mostly Black and Hispanic students in 31 communities with high poverty levels, and achievement impacts were typically more pronounced for those with two years of participation.
The Abbott Preschool Program was created 23 years ago as the result of a New Jersey Supreme Court decision in Abbott v. Burke V. It mandated that the state fund preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in 31 of its most struggling districts. The success of the program has inspired similar efforts around the country. Previous research from the National Institute for Early Education Research found two years in the program had an impact “large enough to close about half the achievement gap between low-income children and their more advantaged peers.”
In the wake of educational disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a resulting influx of funding, early childhood education advocates see an opportunity for a reimagining of the system to provide more equitable opportunities for all students, as well as changes to compensation and training for childcare workers and educators.
Under the American Rescue Plan, funding has been made available for childcare and early childhood education, including a $39 billion child care relief package, $1 billion for Head Start and $250 million for Part C early intervention under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
President Joe Biden has also pitched "free, high-quality, accessible, and inclusive preschool" for all 3- and 4-year-olds as part of his American Families Plan. The plan would cost about $200 billion, but the administration's estimates suggest 5 million children would benefit and the average family would save $13,000, CNBC reports.