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Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Early Education Interventions on Cognitive and Social Development


by Gregory Camilli, Sadako Vargas, Sharon Ryan & W. Steven Barnett — 2010

Background/Context: There is much current interest in the impact of early childhood education programs on preschoolers and, in particular, on the magnitude of cognitive and affective gains.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Because this new segment of public education requires significant funding, accurate descriptions are required of the potential benefits and costs of implementing specific preschool programs. To address this issue comprehensively, a meta-analysis was conducted for the purpose of synthesizing the outcomes of comparative studies in this area.

Population/Participants/Subjects: A total of 123 comparative studies of early childhood interventions were analyzed. Each study provided a number of contrasts, where a contrast is defined as the comparison of an intervention group of children with an alternative intervention or no intervention group.

Intervention/Program/Practice: A prevalent pedagogical approach in these studies was direct instruction, but inquiry-based pedagogical approaches also occurred in some interventions. No assumption was made that nominally similar interventions were equivalent.

Research Design: The meta-analytic database included both quasi-experimental and randomized studies. A coding strategy was developed to record information for computing study effects, study design, sample characteristics, and program characteristics.

Findings/Results: Consistent with the accrued research base on the effects of preschool education, significant effects were found in this study for children who attend a preschool program prior to entering kindergarten. Although the largest effect sizes were observed for cognitive outcomes, a preschool education was also found to impact children�s social skills and school progress. Specific aspects of the treatments that positively correlated with gains included teacher-directed instruction and small-group instruction, but provision of additional services tended to be associated with smaller gains.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Given the current state of research on the efficacy of early childhood interventions, there is both good and bad news. The good news is that a host of original and synthetic studies have found positive effects for a range of outcomes, and this pattern is clearest for outcomes relating to cognitive development. Moreover, many promising variables for program design have been identified and linked to outcomes, though little more can be said of the link than that it is positive. The bad news is that there is much less empirical information available for designing interventions at multiple levels with multiple components.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 3, 2010, p. 579-620
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15440, Date Accessed: 9/18/2014 7:40:44 AM

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About the Author
  • Gregory Camilli
    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    E-mail Author
    GREGORY CAMILLI is Professor of Educational Statistics and Measurement in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. His current research interests include meta-analysis, educational effectiveness, differential item functioning, and affirmative action in law school admission. His publications include Summarizing Item Difficulty Variation With Parcel Scores (Camilli, Prowker, Dossey, Lindquist, Chiu, Vargas, & de la Torre, forthcoming); Illustration of a Multilevel Model for Meta-Analysis (de la Torre, Camilli, Vargas, & Vernon, 2007); and Handbook of Complementary Methods in Education Research (Green, Camilli, & Elmore, 2006).
  • Sadako Vargas
    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    E-mail Author
    SADAKO VARGAS is Research Associate in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her research interests meta-analysis and the effectiveness of occupational therapy. Her publications include A Meta-Analysis of Research on Sensory Integration Therapy(Vargas & Camilli, 1999); The Origin of the National Reading Panel: A Response to “Effects of Systematic Phonics Instruction Are Practically Significant” (Camilli, Kim, & Vargas, forthcoming); and Teaching Children to Read: The Fragile Link Between Science and Federal Education Policy (Camilli, Vargas, & Yurecko, 2003).
  • Sharon Ryan
    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    SHARON RYAN is Associate Professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her research focuses on early childhood teacher education, curriculum, and policy. Her publications include Creating an Effective System of Teacher Preparation and Professional Development: Conversations with Stakeholders (Lobman & Ryan, 2008) and the newly published report, Partnering for Preschool: A Study of Center Directors in New Jersey’s Mixed Delivery Abbott Programs (Whitebook, Ryan, Kipnis, & Sakai, 2008).
  • W. Steven Barnett
    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    E-mail Author
    W. STEVEN BARNETT is Board of Governors Professor and Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. His research includes studies of the economics of early care and education, including costs and benefits, the long-term effects of preschool programs on children’s learning and development, and the distribution of educational opportunities. His publications include The State of Preschool 2007: State Preschool Yearbook (Barnett, Hustedt, Friedman, Boyd, & Ainsworth, 2007); Boundaries With Early Childhood Education: The Influence of Early Childhood Policies on Elementary and Secondary Education (Barnett & Ackerman, 2007); and Early Childhood Program Design and Economic Returns: Comparative Benefit-Cost Analysis of the Abecedarian Program and Policy Implications (Barnett & Masse, 2007).
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