The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends early childhood education programs based on strong evidence of effectiveness in improving educational outcomes that are associated with long-term health and sufficient evidence of effectiveness in improving social- and health-related outcomes. When provided to low-income or racial and ethnic minority communities, early childhood education programs are likely to reduce educational achievement gaps, improve the health of low-income student populations, and promote health equity.
What is Center-Based Early Childhood Education?
Center-based early childhood education programs aim to improve the cognitive or social development of children ages 3 to 5 years.
- Programs must include an educational component that addresses one or more of the following: literacy, numeracy, cognitive development, socio-emotional development, and motor skills.
- Programs may offer additional components including recreation, meals, health care, parental supports, and social services. Some programs enroll children before they are 3 years of age.
Many early childhood education programs target children from low-income families. These include state and district programs, the federal Head Start program, and model programs such as the Perry Pre-School and Abecedarian programs (Campbell et al., 2002; Schweinhart et al., 2005).
Why is This Recommendation Important?
Children in low-income and racial and ethnic minority families often experience delays in language and other development by the age of three. Compensating for these delays before children begin regular schooling can be critical to providing them with opportunities for educational attainment associated with lifelong employment and income, ultimately reducing the achievement gap and advancing health equity. Center-based early childhood education (ECE) programs are designed to prepare children for school. In 2010, less than half of children in families in the lowest income quartile were enrolled in ECE programs, and the quality of these programs was lower than programs attended by higher income children (Duncan & Magnuson 2013).
What are the Task Force and Community Guide?
- The Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) is an independent, nonfederal, uncompensated panel of public health and prevention experts. The Task Force works to improve the health of all Americans by providing evidence-based recommendations about community preventive programs, services, and policies to improve health. Its members represent a broad range of research, practice, and policy expertise in community prevention services, public health, health promotion, and disease prevention.
- The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide) is a website that is a collection of all the evidence-based findings and recommendations of the Community Preventive Services Task Force.
Campbell FA, Ramey CT, Pungello EP, Sparling J, Miller-Johnson S. Early childhood education: Young adult outcomes from the Abecedarian project. Applied Developmental Science2002;6(1):42-57.
Duncan GJ, Magnuson K. Investing in preschool programs. Journal of Economic Perspectives2013;27:109-31.
Schweinhart LJ, Montie J, Xiang Z, Barnett WS, Belfield CR, Nores M. Lifetime effects: The High/Scope Perry preschool study through age 40. Ypsilanti (MI): High/Scope Press; 2005.
For More Information
- The Community Guide:
- Promoting Health Equity Through Education Programs and Policies
- Intervention Summary: Center-Based Early Childhood Education
- Center-Based Early Childhood Education [PDF – 396 kB]
- What Works: Health Equity – brochure and insert [PDF – 1.93 MB]