Panel Paper: The Case for Starting with Infants and Toddlers: Evidence From the Educare Implementation Study

Friday, November 9, 2012 : 1:40 PM
Salon B (Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Noreen Yazejian and Donna Bryant, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Nearly one in four young children in America lives in a family with income below the poverty threshold (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2009).  Recent research shows that disparities in cognitive, social, behavioral, and health outcomes between children from low-income and higher income families appear as early as 9 months of age (Halle et al., 2009). Research also has demonstrated that children from low-income families tend to arrive at school well behind their more advantaged peers and that the differences between income groups tend to persist into high school.  Furthermore, children from low-income backgrounds are more likely to face social and economic problems in adulthood, such as illiteracy, teen pregnancy, school dropout, and unemployment (Heckman, 2008). 

Evidence suggests that high quality early education experiences may produce positive and lasting effects for children, in some cases buffering the negative effects associated with living in poverty (Campbell, Ramey, Pungello, Sparling, & Miller-Johnson, 2002; Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, & Mann, 2001; Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993). Educare is one model of early education for young children and parents in low-income families.  Replicated in 15 (and counting) schools across the nation, Educare is an evidenced-based, comprehensive Early Head Start/Head Start program aimed at preventing the achievement gap from taking root by starting early, with infants, and offering high quality center-based early education and family engagement supports.  Educare represents a partnership between the public and private sectors to create a more efficient, more effective early learning program for children who are at-risk for school failure because of the poverty-related social and environmental stressors in their lives.

This paper will briefly describe the Educare model, present promising results from a longitudinal study of more than 2,000 Educare children in 13 schools, describe the design of a recently launched randomized clinical trial designed to assess the efficacy of Educare in 6 schools, and discuss the policy implications of this work.  Educare research has the potential to demonstrate an innovative program that prevents, not just reduces, the achievement gap for children from low-income families.