Massachusetts Leaders: Research strongly supports investment in early childhood education

An open letter from early learning academics urging lawmakers to take action

As Massachusetts legislators consider the state budget and investments in early education, we would like to highlight the widespread agreement among experts and researchers in the field about the effectiveness of such investments.

As evidenced by a wide body of research across many disciplines, quality early education programs produce better education, health, economic and social outcomes for children, families and the community. Specifically, research indicates:

Quality early childhood education can reduce the achievement gap. Too many American children start school inadequately prepared to succeed. The costs of these gaps, such as increased need for special education and grade retention, are very high to individuals and our state. Children who attended preschool show reductions in social dependency, poor health, and lost productivity.

Access to quality early childhood education is essential. The early learning programs and child care that many parents can afford are not of good enough quality to appreciably affect early disparities in development. Inequities in access to high-quality early education may actually make these disparities worse.

Quality programs produce quality life outcomes. Early childhood programs produce larger long-term impacts on life achievement than on IQ and achievement tests. Evidence from long-term evaluations of both small-scale, intensive interventions and Head Start find long-term effects on important societal outcomes such as high-school graduation, years of education completed, earnings, and reduced crime and teen pregnancy, even if test-score effects fade.

Quality early childhood education delivered through a mixed-provider system benefits children from diverse family backgrounds and circumstances. Quality early learning can benefit middle-class children as well as disadvantaged children; typically developing children as well as children with special needs; and dual language learners as well as monolingual English speakers. Although early research focused primarily on programs for low-income children, more recent research indicates that middle-class children can benefit substantially and that benefits outweigh costs for children from middle-income as well as for those from low-income families.

Investing in quality early childhood education pays off. Rigorous cost-benefit analyses show that the economic benefits of early childhood education outweigh the costs of providing access to quality programs.

Critics of greater investment ignore the full body of evidence. Critics often cite data out of context, cherry-picking results that found minimal effects within the larger set of findings of significant overall benefits. Existing research findings are sufficient to warrant substantially greater investments in quality programs now.

There are a number of pressing problems that undermine early education in Massachusetts. We know that our largest subsidy programs – principally the state administration of federal Child Care and Development Block Grant – do not reach many families and that underfunding results in an unstable early care and education system. The return on investment for making the necessary investments to provide affordable, high quality programs is substantial.

Massachusetts prides itself on education, but are behind when it comes to early education. Massachusetts ranks 29th in state preschool spending per child, and has seen early education and care programs funding shrink significantly over the past decade relative to inflation.

As identified by the Massachusetts Board of Early Education & Care, the rates at which we reimburse our early care and education providers are far too low, and result in high turnover in the field. The Board recommends a $36.4 Million rate reserve in your FY18 budget to begin to address this workforce crisis.


We also urge you to consider further investments that would help lower the cost for families struggling to access high-quality care while also improving the quality of programs. Such investments are warranted by the research.



Massachusetts Early Childhood Researchers and Professors

Nina Aronoff, Associate Professor of Social Work

Polly Attwood, Associate Teaching Professor, Northeastern University, Teacher Education Programs

Kim Audette, Greenfield Community College, Preschool Enrichment Team, Academic and career Development Specialist

Cynthia Ballenger, Director, Early Childhood Teacher Preparation, Tufts University

William Beardslee, M.D., Director, Baer Prevention Initiatives, Boston Children's Hospital & Distinguished Gardner/Monks Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Barbara Beatty, Wellesley College, Professor of Education

Katherine Begin, Curry College Professor

Eliza Bobek, University of Massachusetts Lowell

J.Michael Bodi, Professor and Chairperson

Nathaniel Brown, Associate Research Professor, Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment, Lynch School of Education, Boston College

Kemoh Salia-Bao, Cambridge college

Deirdre Budzyna, Professor of Early Childhood Education

J Camille Cammack, Senior Lecturer, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dale Carberry, Senior Lecturer/Special Education

Beth Casey, Professor Emeritus,Boston College Lynch School of Education

Rebekah Levine Coley, Professor, Boston College

Stephanie Curenton-Jolly, Boston University Associate Professor

Lisa D'Souza, Chairperson Education Department Assumption College

Nermeen Dashoush, Professor of ECE at BU

Danette Day, Assistant Professor

Eric Dearing, Professor, Boston College

Kaitlin DeBellis, Exec. Director, Author, Adjunct

Tom Del Prete, Clark University (Director, Adam Institute for Urban Teaching)

Eric DeMeulenaere, Associate Professor of Education

Chris Denning, Associate Professor; University of Massachusetts-Boston

Julie Dobrow, Tufts University, Senior Lecturer

Holly Dolan, Associate Professor of Practice/Clark University

Anne Douglass, University of Massachusetts Boston, Professor of Early Childhood Education

Eleanor Duckworth, Professor Emerita, Harvard University

Julie Dwyer, Boston University, Assistant Professor

Darrell Earnest, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Assistant Professor

Ann Easterbrooks, Professor, Eliot-Pearson Dept. of Child Study and Human Development, Tufts University

David Henry Feldman, Professor and Chair, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Tufts University

Sasha Fleary, Tufts University

Dr. Ellie Friedland, Associate Professor & Department Co-Chair, Early Childhood Education, Wheelock College

Kathryn Gallo, North Shore Community College - Director, Region 3 EPS Grant

Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Elizabeth A. Gilbert, Ed.D., University of Massachustts, Amherst Director of LMWE Early Childhood Educator Program

Eve Gilmore, Executive Director Edward Street Child Services

Lisa Gonsalves, University of Massachusetts/Boston; Chair, Curriculum & Instruction Department

margaret hannah, Executive Director William James College Freedman Center for Child and Family Development

Francine Jacobs, Associate Professor, Tufts University

Bruce K Johnson, Tufts Elliot Pearson ECE

Julie Karaganis,Board of Directors, President, Harborlihht Nursery School

Carla Keith, Stonehill College Adjunct Professor

Janna Kellinger, Associate Professor, UMass Boston

Josephine Kim, Faculty

Nancy Knight, Quinsigamond Children's School, Director

Lisa Kuh, Director of Early Education, Somerville Public Schools, Lesley University Adjunct

Denise LaFrance, Fitchburg State University, Assistant Professor

Karen Langlais, Adjunct Professor of Education

Mary Beth Lawton, Lesley University; Education Division Director

Tama Leventhal, Professor, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Tufts University

Robert LeVine, HGSE, professor emeritus

John Lippitt, Adjunct Faculty Tufts Univ., Brandeis Univ., University of Massachusetts Boston

Kimberly Lucas, Brandeis University

Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts Boston

Karen Mahoney, Quinsigamond Community College Adjunct Faculty

Charlene Mara, Quinsigamond Community College, Faculty Coordinator

Ben Mardell, Lesley Graduate School of Education, Professor

Peggy Martalock, Greenfield Community College, Education Faculty & Program Coordinator

Kathleen McCartney, President, Smith College

Joanne McDonnell, Anna Maria College, Director of Education Programs

Dr. Sandra McElroy, Pine Manor College

Janet McKeon, Associate Director, Quinsigamond Community College Children's School

Kathleen McNamara, Stonehill College

Patrick McQuillan, Associate Professor, Lynch School of Education, Boston College

Christine McWayne, Tufts University, Director of Early Childhood Education

Sarah Michaels, Professor of Education

Jayanthi Mistry, Associate Professor, Tufts University

Nancy Murray, Chair: Education, Fitchburg State University

Linda Nathan, Professor of Education

Greg Nelson, Professor of ECE, Bridgewater State University

Greg Nelson, Professor of ECE, Bridgewater State University

Xiaoxia Newton, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Associate Professor

Arielle Orenstein, Graduate Teaching Assistant

Ellen Pinderhughes, Professor, Tufts University

Lisa Plotkin, Assistant Director

Martha Pott, Tufts University, Senior Lecturer

Paul Reville Francis Keppel, Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration Founding Director, Education Redesign Lab Harvard University Graduate School of Education

Claudia Rinaldi, Lasell College Faculty

Meredith Rowe, Associate Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Renee Ruggiero, Wheelock College

George Scarlett, Sr. Lecturer/Tufts University

Melanie Shipon, Adjunct Instructor NECC

Jack Shonkoff, Harvard University

Linda Small, Curry College Field Placement Supervisor

Catherine Snow, Patricia Albjerg Graham Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Cindy Spelman, Greenfield Community College

Joanne Szamreta, professor, Lesley University

Amanda Tarullo, Boston University, Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Jonathan Tirrell, Ph.D., Tufts University

Terrence Tivnan, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Ed Tronick, UMassBoston, University Distinguished Professor

Kathleen Vranos, Greenfield Community College, Dean, Business & Information Technology, Professional Studies, & Social Science

Ernest Washington, Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Maryanne Wolf, Tufts University, John DiBiaggio Professor of Citizenship and Public Service

Diane E. Levin, Ph.D. Professor of Early Childhood Education, Wheelock College

Early Education Professionals

Charlene Zimkiewicz, Kindergarten teacher

Cindy Spelman, Teacher

Dawn Cunningham, Teacher

Debbie Jaslowich, PreK Teacher

Debbie Young, EAW/MTA

DianeSmith, Kindergarten Teacher

Donna Fils-Aime, Teacher

Ed Madaus, Guild of St. Agnes

Eve Gilmore, Executive Director Edward Street Child Services

Georgia O'Keefe, PreK teacher

Heather Bousquet, Proud Public School Preschool Teacher

Jillian McMahon, Teacher

Jo AnneRose, Public preschool special ed teacher

Julie Karaganis, Board of Directors, President, Harbor Light Nursery School

Justin Newton, Teacher

Kathleen Belliveau, Kindergarten Teacher Worcester Public Schools

Kathy Ranaghan, Kindergarten teacher

Laurie Kuczka, Head Start and Early Childhood Director

Leah Newton, Teacher

Leslie Etedge, Preschool teacher WPS

Leo Delaney, CEO Ellis Memorial

Liz Marcantonio, Worcester Public Schools/teacher

Marie Rocheleau-Demers, Preschool at Worcester Tech

Mary Mara, Worcester Public Schools Preschool Teacher

Maureen Lawson, Teacher Worcester Public Schools

Meaghan Butman, Kindergarten Teacher

Meaghan Butman, Kindergarten Teacher

Michael OConnell, Preschool Teacher

Nancy Knight, Quinsigamond Children's School, Director

Nora Sullivan, Somerville Public Schools, Special Education Preschool Teacher

Pamela Brezniak, Teacher

Stacey Chiodetti, Worcester Public / Preschool, Special Education Teacher

Teddy Kokoros , Preschool Teacher