As the Twig Is Bent--Lasting Effects of Preschool Programs

By Consortium for Longitudinal Studies. | Go to book overview

10
Long-Term Effects of Projects Head Start and Follow Through: The New Haven Project

Victoria Seitz Nancy H. Apfel Laurie K. Rosenbaum Edward Zigler Yale University


Introduction

Purpose of Study

The long-range effects of early educational experiences are difficult to determine for at least two reasons. From the viewpoint of scientific study, one common problem is that children's later educational circumstances usually resemble their earlier ones. Middle-class children typically attend middle-class schools for the duration of their schooling; the same continuity generally exists for inner-city children attending inner-city schools. Thus to single out for study the effects of some particular educational period is often not feasible.

A second problem--again from an experimentalist's viewpoint--is that children are not randomly assigned to the kinds of school or classrooms they attend. Rather, curricula, teachers, and facilities are usually made available in some selective manner reflecting some mix of demographic and personal characteristics. Thus, although there is compelling face validity to the notion that the kinds of educational experiences children receive are important determinants of their later academic skills, suprisingly little hard scientific evidence can be provided to document either the truth or falsity of this belief.

The issue is of more than academic interest when the population of children in question typically performs poorly in school. Poverty and educational failure tend to be linked both in the United States and elsewhere ( Ogbu, 1978). The possibility that this link could be broken through early intervention was one of the bases for the creation of the Head Start program in the mid-1960s. The subsequent establishment of the Follow Through program was intended to provide economically disadvantaged children with an even more extensive period of continuous early intervention.

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