Early Childhood Education is the Best Return on Investment

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in The Hill:

We know that learning starts at birth, and the preparation for learning starts before birth. Eighty percent of a child’s brain develops between birth and the age of 3, with much of the child’s intellect, personality and skills developed before he or she begins kindergarten. A solid initial investment in young children will save us billions in future spending on remedial education, criminal justice, health and welfare programs.

Harkin is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

Dayna Straehley writes in The Press Enterprise:

A comprehensive approach to skills is needed because fragmented approaches don’t work [Heckman] said.
And national policy debates have ignored what he said are two essential ideas:

1. Parents matter a lot, not only in supporting their kids in school but also getting them ready for school, and

2. Success in life depends on a lot more than your scores on standardized tests.

Those soft skills – like character, self-control, perseverance, being able to plan tasks and set goals, and getting along with others – that lead to success should begin well before kindergarten.

Want numbers?

The rate of return on investment in early childhood education is 7 percent to 10 percent per annum, not counting improved health, which is another benefit that Heckman said he hopes to quantify in the next six months.


It’s Always Best to Start at the Beginning

Our own Tony Accetta and Jodie Deshmukh in the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle:

President Obama’s recent State of the Union address focused the nation on the urgent need to develop solutions that address the growing achievement gap. While “pre-school for all,” the most-talked about solution, may very well be an important step in leveling the playing field for low-income students, most experts agree that we can and should begin even earlier — at birth. Research on the brain has proven that most of the brain’s development takes place during the first three years of life, when vital neural connections are made in response to a child’s environment. Infants less than 30 days old have been shown to be making rational judgments and exercising discretion in their preferences. The notion that a baby is just a baby is a disservice to the baby and is a waste of important and valuable time.

Fortunately for Coloradans, a program exists that focuses solely on the early years: Bright Beginnings.

Also mentioned is the 17th Annual Brad & Erna Butler Memorial Golf Tournament public fundraiser on Monday, June 03, 2013.

Is Your Baby Addicted to Your iPad?

The Telegraph reports Toddlers becoming so addicted to iPads they require therapy:

Dr Graham said that young technology addicts experienced the same withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics or heroin addicts, when the devices were taken away.

He warned that the condition prevented young people from forming normal social relationships, leaving them drained by the constant interaction.

“Children have access to the internet almost from birth now,” he told the Sunday Mirror.
“They see their parents playing on their mobile devices and they want to play too. It’s difficult, because having a device can also be very useful in terms of having a reward, having a pacifier.

It is important that parents and caregivers offer infants and toddlers as much talk, read, play and praise as possible. While electronic “pacifiers” can be helpful, they are no substitute for one-on-one interaction.

The Power of Talking to Your Baby

Pulitzer Prize winner Tina Rosenberg in the NY Times Opinion Pages:

Another idea, however, is creeping into the policy debate: that the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better. It turns out, evidence is showing, that the much-ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk — Feel Teddy’s nose! It’s so soft! Cars make noise — look, there’s a yellow one! Baby feels hungry? Now Mommy is opening the refrigerator! — is very, very important. (So put those smartphones away!)

Bright Beginnings Program B Kit for 12-24 month olds includes the books Language Power and My First Picture Book that are broadly based on the findings of Betty Hart’s and Todd Risley’s study, The Early Catastrophe. The 30 Million Word Gap. and their book, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. See our Evaluation Page for more on our research-based programs.

Hart and Risley were studying how parents of different socioeconomic backgrounds talked to their babies. Every month, the researchers visited the 42 families in the study and recorded an hour of parent-child interaction. They were looking for things like how much parents praised their children, what they talked about, whether the conversational tone was positive or negative. Then they waited till the children were 9, and examined how they were doing in school. In the meantime, they transcribed and analyzed every word on the tapes — a process that took six years. “It wasn’t until we’d collected our data that we realized that the important variable was how much talking the parents were doing,” Risley told an interviewer later.

All parents gave their children directives like “Put away your toy!” or “Don’t eat that!” But interaction was more likely to stop there for parents on welfare, while as a family’s income and educational levels rose, those interactions were more likely to be just the beginning.

The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.

The Gap is There Before Kids Walk into Kindergarten

In an NY Times Article by Eduardo Porter:

[Heckman’s study] suggests that the angry, worried debate over how to improve the nation’s mediocre education — pitting the teachers’ unions and the advocates of more money for public schools against the champions of school vouchers and standardized tests — is missing the most important part: infants and toddlers.

In other words:

Erick Hanushek, an expert on the economics of education at Stanford, put it more directly: “We are subsidizing the wrong people and the wrong way.

7 Percent to 10 Percent Return, Per Child, Per Year

Dr. James Heckman in the NY Times Opinion Pages:

The economic strength of any nation depends on the skills of its people. Unfortunately, the United States has a growing skills problem that is directly related to the declining quality of early childhood environments for disadvantaged children. Many disadvantaged children arrive at kindergarten with achievement deficits that are difficult and expensive to remediate in school and later in life.

Investing in quality early childhood development for disadvantaged children from birth through age 5 will help prevent these achievement deficits and produce better education, health, social and economic outcomes. Such investment will reduce the need for costly remediation and social spending while increasing the value, productivity and earning potential of individuals. In fact, every dollar invested in quality early childhood development for disadvantaged children produces a 7 percent to 10 percent return, per child, per year.

Skills Begets Skills

James Heckman’s reply to Promoting Social Mobility in the Boston Review, a forum on using early intervention to reduce inequality:

Skills Begets Skills. The early years are crucial in creating the abilities, motivation, and other personality traits that produce success downstream: in school, in the workforce, and in other aspects of life. Environments and investments matter for producing skills over the entire life cycle but are particularly effective when children are very young—from birth to age five.