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Keywords:

  • early intervention;
  • education programs;
  • PK-3;
  • early childhood;
  • policy;
  • education research;
  • children of immigrants;
  • policy research;
  • longitudinal studies

ABSTRACT—Policymakers and researchers have shared interests in educational programs for young children. Policymakers see these programs as a potential means of narrowing the persistent gaps in achievement evident in many children entering kindergarten. Researchers see their role as one of assessing the effectiveness of various programs so that policymakers can make informed decisions. This article provides an overview of what is currently known and what needs to be determined about the factors that contribute to positive outcomes from early education programs. New prospective longitudinal studies are needed, as well as secondary analyses of recent large-scale longitudinal studies, which can inform issues of program design and impact. Five gaps in knowledge about effective programs are identified: program design for an increasingly ethnically diverse group of young children, including those of immigrants; connecting teaching and learning processes to child outcomes; understanding a broad range of child outcomes based on developmental science; bringing multiple disciplinary perspectives to bear on what constitutes effective early education programs; and continuing to address how research and practice can be mutually beneficial.