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The Benefits of Early Learning Programs in Reducing Inequality and Promoting Upward Mobility: the Research of Dr. James Heckman Part 2

The Benefits of Early Learning Programs in Reducing Inequality and Promoting Upward Mobility: the Research of Dr. James Heckman Part 2
Posted on July 21, 2017 by CHS

Characteristics of Quality Programs: Dr. Heckman found the following characteristics of the ABC/Care program in North Carolina made a difference in child and family outcomes:

  • Develop cognitive AND character skills early. Invest in the “whole child.” Effective early childhood education packages cognitive skills with character skills such as attentiveness, impulse control, persistence, and teamwork. Together, cognition and character drive education, career, and life success—with character development often being the most important factor.
  • Provide developmental resources to children AND their families. Direct investment in the child’s early development is complemented by investment in parents and family environments, such as parent coaching and home visiting programs.
  • Starting at birth. When children are enrolled early and remain in the program until they enter kindergarten they are able to build skill upon skill, preparing them for greater success in school and, ultimately, in life.
  • Providing continuous care. Children benefit from quality programs when they are intensive, full-day, five days a week; however, even less intensive programs such as Head Start have short and long-term benefits for disadvantaged children.
  • Engaging parents. Parents play the most critical role in developing skills and abilities in their children; therefore, programs that provide parental education on building family life are most conducive to the success of their children. Disadvantage in early childhood is not just income based but also depends on the quality time parents can spend with their children and the parenting resources they can allocate for early development. Today’s economic pressures force poor and middle-income parents alike to spend more time away from their children to make ends meet. It makes dollars and sense to target disadvantaged children with quality early childhood programs rather than subsidize low quality universal programs for all income levels.
  • Incorporating health as an input. For example, programs that offer regular health and development screening and refer those children with concerns to medical or child development providers. High-quality programs follow up with the parents to make sure they were able to access care.
  • Recognizing the importance of nutrition. Particularly for children who may experience food insecurity at home, providing nutritious meals and snacks is essential to ensure they are able to learn.
  • Developing the full range of skills. High quality programs take a highly developmental approach to advance early learning, with a focus on developing comprehensive skills through social-emotional and cognitive development. There is evidence indicating that social-emotional skills drive cognitive achievement and life success.
  • Empowering parents with quality child care. Reliable, high-quality child care provides parents with the confidence and means to enter into the work force, build their own skills, advance careers, and acquire higher wages.
  • Transitioning children into elementary schooling. The program monitors the progress of its children during the first few years of elementary schooling, helping children successfully transition from a highly nurturing early childhood environment to potentially less nurturing public schools.
  • Combining highly trained educators with well-trained and supervised teachers.The program is developed, implemented, and supervised by early childhood thought leaders and professionals who train teachers and staff on how to identify with children, build relationships through empathy, create engagement, monitor progress, and create continuous improvement.
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