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A groundbreaking study titled “Kindergarten through Grade 3 Outcomes Associated with Participation in High-Quality Early Care and Education: A RCT Follow-Up Study” with Tulsa’s Educare has unveiled a transformative solution to the persistent student achievement gap in education. 

This landmark research that focused on early learning, the first of its kind in half a century, underscores the profound and lasting impact of comprehensive early childhood programs. Through the lens of Tulsa Educare, a holistic initiative serving impoverished children, the study demonstrates that investments in high-quality early education from infancy to age four can help with closing the achievement gap between low, middle and even higher income families, providing a blueprint for nationwide reform.

“Our findings show that high-quality learning beginning at eighteen months of age or younger can prevent proficiency gaps from even forming, disrupting the long-term cycle of poverty. We now have a research-tested blueprint for closing academic gaps for children in poverty and their more affluent peers nationwide,” says Dr. Diane M. Horm, Founding Director of the Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) at the University of Oklahoma at Tulsa.

In the quest to bridge academic disparities among students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, policymakers have long grappled with the challenge. However, the newly-released study marks a pivotal shift in this landscape. It underscores that robust investments in early care and education (ECE) can preemptively prevent the formation of achievement gaps in later grades.

Unlike prior studies, this groundbreaking research offers a longitudinal perspective, charting the progress of children from infancy to 3rd grade. The study, conducted by the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa’s Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI), followed 75 children randomly assigned to treatment or control groups from the age of 19 months until age 4. This approach allowed researchers to assess academic development, executive function skills, social-emotional characteristics, and classroom quality.

Educare shows positive impact on early learning, study finds

The findings resonate powerfully. Students exposed to high-quality ECE demonstrated substantial academic improvements from kindergarten to 3rd grade. This is a revelation that attaining quality early education starting in younger children, as early as 18 months, can equip children to match the academic performance of their more affluent peers, regardless of ethnic group and underresourced communities.”

“In fact, comparing the results to national norms, students in under-resourced communities tested at the same level as middle- and higher-income students. That means we now know, from a policy perspective, we have a roadmap for closing long-term academic proficiency gaps in education nationally,” Executive Director Ken Levit, of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, said.

The implications of the study’s results are broad-reaching, extending to both English-speaking and dual-language learning students.

“Both native English speakers and dual-language learners in the Tulsa Educare program showed significant benefits in our study, scoring similarly in oral comprehension, vocabulary, and math,” Levit added. 

Furthermore, while no discernible differences emerged in social-emotional development, there were fewer behavior problems reported among parents of children who attended Tulsa Educare. 

As the education sector grapples with post-pandemic recovery, the study’s significance amplifies. It highlights a promising pathway forward to bridge educational disparities and elevate learning outcomes. The findings, invovling Tulsa’s Educare offer a persuasive argument for policymakers to prioritize early education, particularly from infancy, and to significantly enhance investments in teacher training, comprehensive support, and data-driven innovation.

Educare shows positive impact on early learning, study finds
Photo courtesy of Educare

The study’s resounding message is that holistic early education serves as a cornerstone to eradicate achievement gaps. By embracing this evidence-backed approach, policymakers have a golden opportunity to revolutionize education and ensure a level playing field for students from all backgrounds. Potential outcomes might yield beneficial impacts on middle and high school students, leading to a reduction in dropout rates and an increase in standardized test scores among students from underserved communities.

“For too long, our approach to early childhood education as a country has been fragmented and underfunded. It can and must change. Childcare has never been more important, and the urgency for tangible solutions, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID crisis, has never been more urgent,” Cindy Decker, Executive Director of Tulsa Educare, said. “This new study makes the undeniable case for putting a renewed focus, from a policy level and a financial one, on holistic early education. We have the answers for disrupting intergenerational poverty nationwide; now we just need the will to do it.” 

You can access the complete study here. If you wish to arrange interviews with the researchers from the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa who carried out the study or with experts from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, kindly get in touch through

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...

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