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Providing Quality Early Childhood Education

The expert testimony, research, scholarship, and lived experience collected by the Commission revealed the following:

  • Countless studies have shown that the early years in a child’s life, when the brain develops the most, represent a critically important window of opportunity (Consortium for Longitudinal Studies, 1983).
  • The groundwork for much of what the average person needs to succeed in life is established by about the time he or she enters kindergarten (Heckman,  2012). During these first years of life, the human brain develops rapidly, laying the foundation for future cognitive skills in the areas of reading, math, science, and academics more generally (Phillips & Shonkoff, 2000). During these years, children also form nascent social, emotional, gross-motor, and executive-function skills (Phillips & Shonkoff, 2000).
  • Children who attend early-learning programs perform better in school and social life than those who receive no formal early education. (Karoly, Greenwood, Everingham, Hoube, Kilburn, Rydell, Sanders, and Chiesa, 1998; Barnett, 1995) They are less likely to repeat a grade, less likely to be placed in special education classes, and more likely to graduate from high school. (Karoly et al.; Barnett, 1995; Consortium for Longitudinal Studies, 1983).
  • Children who participate in early childhood education are less likely to engage in criminal activity, be unemployed, visit the emergency room, or become pregnant as teens (Karoly et al., 1998).
  • While every child benefits from early learning—formal or informal—research suggests that the benefits of early childhood education are particularly strong for kids from disadvantaged communities (HighScope, 2005; Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, & Mann, 2001).
  • The Federal Reserve estimates that for every $1 invested in high-quality pre-kindergarten education, the community sees a $7-$16 rate of return through saved costs (e.g., on special education, incarceration, and social services) and enhanced revenues (e.g., higher income and property taxes) (Grunewald, & Rolnick, 2010).
  • In Missouri, from 2011 to 2013, 64% of children living in households with income below 200% of the federal poverty limit (FPL) (around $44,700 for a family of four in 2011) were not enrolled in preschool, compared to 48% of children living in households with income at or above 200% of FPL (National Kids Count, 2015; Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, 2011).
  • A study by the Women’s Foundation and the University of Missouri found that 27% of counties in the state have no accredited child care centers, including the top three counties with the highest number of children under the age of four per capita, two of which are also amongst the most impoverished counties in the state (Institute of Public Policy, 2015; US Census, 2010).

These findings prompted the Commission to draft a call to action for enhanced access to early education for all of Missouri’s children.

To that end, the Commission issues the call to action below.

Take Action

Support great school climates

While policy changes are important to changing the landscapes of our schools, it is only effective when paired with culture changes. Engage with your child’s school to facilitate a great school climate and culture for all students, teachers and administrators. This can take the form of attending PTA meetings, starting discussion groups with other parents, or…

Tags Youth at the CenterAligning Resources to Foster Innovation and Build Capacity
Take Action 

Suggested Reading List

HighScope. (2005). Highscope Perry pre-school study. Retrieved from:

Skarda, E. (2014). Ask the experts:How can we fix early childhood education? NationSwell. Retrieved from:


  1. Barnett, WS. (1995) Long-term effects of early childhood programs on cognitive and school outcomes.  Future Child 5:25-50. Retrieved from:
  2. Consortium for Longitudinal Studies (1983).  As the twig Is bent…Lasting effects of preschool programs. Hillsdale, NJ:L. Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved from:
  3. Grunewald, R. & Rolnick,A. (2010). An early childhood investment with a high public return. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Retrieved from:
  4. Heckman, J. (2012). Invest in early childhood development:Reduce deficits, strengthen the economy. Retrieved from:
  5. HighScope. (2005). Highscope Perry Pre-School Study. Retrieved from:
  6. Karoly L. A., Greenwood, P.W., Everingham, S.S., Hoube, J., Kilburn, M.R. Rydell, C.P., Sanders, M., Chiesa, J. (1998).  Investing in our children:What we know and don’t know about the costs and benefits of early childhood interventions. Santa Monica, Calif:The RAND Corp. Retrieved from:
  7. National Institute for Early Education Research. (2013). The state of preschool 2013-State preschool yearbook:Missouri. Retrieved from:
  8. National Kids Count. (2015) Children ages 3 and 4 not attending preschool, by poverty status. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Retrieved from:,1049,995,116/4172,4173/15190,15189
  9. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. (2011). The 2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from:
  10. Phillips, D. A., & Shonkoff, J. P. (Eds.). (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods:The science of early childhood development. National Academies Press.
  11. Reynolds, A. J., Temple, J. A., Robertson, D. L., & Mann, E. A. (2001). Long-term effects of an early childhood intervention on educational achievement and juvenile arrest:A 15-year follow-up of low-income children in public schools.Jama, 285(18), 2339-2346. Retrieved from: