Early Childhood Education: Exploring the Impact on Child Development, Executive Functions, and Elementary School Grade Progression
Early childhood education programs have implications on child development and school readiness skills. Participation in early childhood education programs can prepare children for school environments. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine academic outcomes in elementary school after participation in early childhood education programs, such as prekindergarten. Using data from the 1998 and 2011 cohorts of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies, the results of the analyses provide evidence that children can benefit from early childhood education programs to an extent. Children who participate in prekindergarten have higher school readiness skills and exhibit greater executive function skills than those who do not. Additionally, elementary school grade retention was examined within the context of participation in early childhood education programs. The findings suggest that participation in early childhood education programs does seem to attenuate grade retention risk. There were analytical limitations due to the documentation of early childhood education participation indicators as well as due to the fragmented cycles of data collection periods. The data restrictions lend themselves to the necessity for improvements in documentation to fully examine the impact of early childhood education program participation on academic performance and grade progression. Future research initiatives should apply a life-course perspective to adequately assess and track long term effects of early childhood education programs on children.