In 1998, New Jersey mandated universal early-childhood education starting at age 3 for all children in 31 of the state’s urban districts. A recent report found the effects of this early education to be lasting.
The children followed in the study by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., were beneficiaries of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s rulings in Abbott v. Burke, which found the state’s previous school funding law unconstitutional when applied to students in the state’s poorer urban districts.
For the students, now in 4th and 5th grades, the study found that the Abbott preschool programs increased achievement in language arts and literacy, math, and science. The effects were greater for students who attended two years of preschool versus those who only attended one year. For pupils enrolled for one year, the test-score gains counted for closing the achievement gap between minority and white students over a year of learning by approximately 10 percent to 20 percent. Those gains doubled to 20 percent to 40 percent for the youngsters enrolled in two years of preschool.
A version of this article appeared in the April 03, 2013 edition of Education Week as Early Learning