Early learning impacts lives and pocketbooks according to researchers.
A lifetime of successful learning is one of the organizing
goals of the Office of Early Learning, so when the opportunity arose for OEL
staff to hear from two distinguished early learning researchers, we gladly
accepted. Thursday, March 26, more than 30 early learning staff members and guests welcomed Dr. Craig Ramey, of the University of Virginia Tech Carilion, and Mr.
Rob Grunewald, from the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, to Tallahassee.
Both men are nationally renowned for their work in promoting the positive
effects of early childhood education.
Dr. Ramey’s presentation focused on the outcomes of his
Abecedarian Early Intervention Project. One of the seminal pieces of early
education research, this body of research represents nearly 25 years of
collected data. Starting in 1972, Dr. Ramey and his team created
a controlled early learning environment for 57 children. The program was
comprehensive and focused on language development. Thanks to ongoing
assessments of program participants, there is an unprecedented
breadth of research to evaluate the wide-ranging impacts of quality early
Participants were assessed at way points
throughout their lives. As time passed, the achievement gap between the control
group and participating group grew wider. Assessments taken at age 21
revealed an increase of 1.8 grade levels in reading achievement and an increase
of 1.3 in math achievement. At age 30, participants in early learning were four
times more likely to have graduated from a four-year college and five times
less likely to have used public assistance in the previous seven years. Most
importantly, early education was shown to “disrupt” cycles of intergenerational
Early learning is a tremendous benefit to society because of
its economic impacts in reduced social costs for states. The thesis of Mr.Grunewald’s presentation was direct and to the point, as he reminded
OEL staff that it often takes hard fiscal facts to change public policy. Grunewald highlighted the Perry School Project as another example of
early learning’s lifetime impacts.
Much like the Abecedarian Project, the
Perry research was culled from 40 years of assessing and tracking students
placed in early learning programs during the 1960s. The fiscal impacts were even
greater than those of the Abecedarian Project, reflecting a $16 to $1
cost-benefit ratio for program participants. Other key findings that should
resonate with policymakers were reductions in emergency room visits, reduced childhood
abuse and neglect, and a drastic drop-off in costs
to the judicial system.
For early learning staff, hearing these authoritative voices was another
opportunity to discover the power of our programs. In a consistently changing
educational landscape, it’s necessary to perpetually define the successes of
early education. A lifetime’s worth of impacts stem from the precious infant
years and OEL is here to make this period life changing for every child.
(L. to r.) Office of Early Learning Interim Executive Director Rodney MacKinnon, Florida Association of Early Learning Coalitions Executive Director Alisa Ghazvini, Early Education Research Scholar Dr. Craig Ramey, Federal Reserve Bank Economist Rob Grunewald