Towards an Understanding of What Works in Preschool Education

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Date and Time: 
Thursday, November 3, 2016
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Anya Samek

The Chicago Heights Early Childhood Center (CHECC) project was a field experiment in which over 1,000, 3-4 year-old children were randomized to different preschool programs designed to increase cognitive and non-cognitive skills. In the first two years of the project, we evaluated the impact of a range of interventions for children and their parents. We found that cognitive test scores increased in the treatment groups, relative to a control group. Importantly, we found that these increases occurred early – within the first four months of the school year. We used our learnings from these early field experiments to develop a new intervention that we evaluated for two more years: a combined preschool and parenting program with a new curriculum. In addition to the typical academic year program, we also devised a shorter summer program in which children were treated immediately prior to the start of Kindergarten. Similar to the programs in the first two years, the new program resulted in gains in cognitive test scores that were concentrated early on in the academic year. The summer program resulted in gains in cognitive test scores that were indistinguishable from the academic year program. The impact of our programs on non-cognitive scores was more limited for all programs. Moreover, as is typical in this literature, program effects faded after the first year in Kindergarten.