Past Successes Shape Effort to Expand Early Intervention

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Science  19 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6045, pp. 952-956
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6045.952

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Three groundbreaking intervention efforts over the past half-century have shown beyond a doubt that high-quality early education pays off. The payoff—on everything from better school performance to holding a job, raising a family, staying out of jail, and contributing to, rather than being a burden on, society—can be as much as $16 saved for every dollar spent. That's an impressive return on investment at a time when local, state, and federal officials are trying to squeeze out the biggest bang for their limited bucks. But these studies can't provide policymakers with a prescription for the best, most cost-effective intervention that can help the largest number of at-risk children. The disconnect comes because such studies contain too many important variables to measure. But all of them, from the quality of the teachers to the curriculum to the intensity and duration of the intervention, affect long-term outcomes.