Weighing In: The Lasting Impact of High-quality Early Learning

Last week, there was an interesting back-and-forth on the Washington Post debating whether the impact of high-quality early learning lasts or fades as a child grows up. The first article, authored by three academics (“Preschool can provide a boost, but the gains can fade surprisingly fast”), suggests that current early childhood education fails to live up to the promise of providing long-term boosts to the children served. Three letters of response — notably from the executive director of the National Head Start Association and Nobel laureate in economics James J. Heckman (“With supports, the impact of high-quality preschool does not fade out”) — present counterarguments: “the effects of high-quality early learning, especially those with comprehensive two-generation supports, last a lifetime.”

We agree with these counterarguments, which reflect the strategy we are working to enact in the District of Columbia. Our focus is on expanding the availability of high-quality early learning seats so all children have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential and thrive. Learn more about the Birth-to-Three Policy Alliance and the brain science behind this group’s work.