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The federal Even Start program was implemented to improve the educational opportunities of low-income children and adults by integrating early childhood education, adult education, and parent education into a unified family literacy initiative. This study was designed to assess the impact of Even Start on children's early school performance several years after their participation in the program and, secondarily, to characterize the schools in which the Even Start and comparison children were enrolled. Data were collected on a subset of children from the In-Depth Study of the first national evaluation of Even Start. Of the 179 children included in that study, 128 (72%) were involved in the Follow-Up study. The majority of the students were in the first and second grades during the 1994-95 school year. The medium-term effects of Even Start participation were assessed using the following measures: school grades; achievement test data; school attendance; special education placement; Title I placement; participation in transitional classrooms, summer school programs, and bilingual education; and grade retention history. The study found little difference between former Even Start participants and a control group except that Even Start participants were less likely to be tardy arriving at school. Given that previous research has demonstrated the positive long-term effects of early childhood education programs, these results might be explained by the absence of the following features in this study: (1) a longer interval between the treatment and subsequent follow-up; (2) the use of comparable grade data or achievement test scores; and (3) the capacity to collect new data from children as well as from teachers or parents. While it is possible that the Even Start program does not have medium- or long-term effects, it is also possible that these features needed to be included in the study design to detect meaningful differences. (Contains 24 references and 3 appendices which detail methodology and family characteristics.) (LPP)

Descriptors: Academic Achievement, Disadvantaged Environment, Disadvantaged Youth, Early Childhood Education, Family Literacy, Intervention, Literacy Education, Low Income Groups, Outcomes of Education, Program Effectiveness, Program Evaluation, School Readiness, Young Children

Autor: Gamse, Beth C.; Conger, Dylan; Elson, Dean; McCarthy, Maria


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