Do Positive Effects of Preschool Programs on Poor Children Really Last?

Another report is out to settle the question of whether it is indeed worthwhile to provide preschool to children of poor families. This new report comes from the state of New Jersey. These are results from a study of children who participated in New Jersey's Abbot Preschool program back in 2004 and 2005. The report summarizes the current standings of these children in their fifth grade of elementary schooling. Recently, questions have been raised that the positive effects appear to dissipate as children advance in elementary school. The new report, "Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES): Fifth Grade Follow-Up", shows that positive effects remain. 

To read the full report, visit Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES): Fifth Grade Follow-Up
The following graph highlights not only the positive impact of preschool on the academic performance of grade five children, but also shows that two years of preschool are even significantly better than just one year of preschool:

Figure downloaded from W. Steven Barnett, Kwanghee Jung, Min-Jong Youn, Ellen C. Frede, National Institute for Early Education Research Rutgers—The State University of New Jersey, Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES): Fifth Grade Follow-Up 

The improvements in Language Arts and Literacy (LAL), Math and Science, as shown above, are remarkable and undeniable. The study therefore concludes:
Based on the results of the 5th grade follow-up we suggest that New Jersey would be wise to take additional steps to build on its success to date. First, participation rates in two-years of pre-K should be increased to above 90 percent in the Abbott districts. In some districts it is far below this level and the human costs in low achievement and school failure is tragic as is the likely adult consequences of lower productivity and earnings and higher crime rates. Second, as required by the New Jersey School Funding Reform Act of 2008, high-quality pre-K should be expanded to offer a comparable program to all low-income children. In addition, plans should be developed to extend the opportunity for high-quality pre-K to all of the state’s children.
Of course, it is important to take note of what this preschool program is about: (The following description is copied from
The Abbott Preschool Program is administered through New Jersey’s Department of Education and the Department of Human Services. It consists of a 6-hour, 180-day preschool program as well as before- and afterschool care and summer programs for young children in 31 of New Jersey’s poorest urban school districts. The Abbott program adheres to quality standards set by the state Supreme Court and codified in regulations adopted by the New Jersey Department of Education. To facilitate children’s transitions to school, the Abbott Preschool Program’s curriculum is aligned with New Jersey’s Core Curriculum Content Standards (CCCS). Its characteristics are:
  • Universal eligibility: open to all 3- and 4-year-old children in economically disadvantaged school districts; open to low-income children in all other school districts when phased-in under SFRA 
  • Qualified teachers and small classes: 15 children per class, staffed by a state certified teacher and an assistant 
  • State-provided facilities and funding, adequate to meet district needs 
  • Developmentally appropriate curriculum, aligned with the New Jersey CCCS and elementary school reforms 
  • Social and health services, transportation, and services for children with disabilities and with limited English proficiency, as needed 
  • Supervision, technical assistance, professional development, and evaluation to assure uniform high quality instruction 
  • Initiatives to identify the number of underserved children and obstacles to enrollment; intensive outreach and recruitment 
  • Documentation of teachers’ needs for ongoing professional development and for funding to achieve salary/benefit comparability between school and community programs 
This program is obviously not simply baby- or toddler-sitting or child daycare.