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.

http://brightbythree.org/blog/3181/

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.

The Business Case for Early Childhood Education

John Pepper and James Zimmerman in a NY Times Op-Ed:

In short, early educational interventions really matter, and have long-term consequences. Children who are not proficient in reading by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than children who read at or above grade level — and 13 times more likely, if they live in poverty. A child’s brain grows to roughly 85 percent of its full capacity in the first five years of life. These are also the years when a child’s sense of what is possible is being formed.

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.