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 education.

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 poverty.

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

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