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In sum, high-quality preschool education is designed to enhance children’s social and emotional development.
Such programs provide children with highly qualified teachers, small class sizes with high
teacher-student ratios, opportunities to pursue their interests and interact with their peer, and activities
intentionally designed and implemented to educate the whole child. Among the benefits found from
such programs; children are more likely to graduate from high school, continue with higher education,
and have lower rates of teen pregnancy, special education placement, disruptive behavior, and arrests.
They are more likely to give back to their neighborhoods as adults by participating in volunteer work
and contribute more to their communities through higher employment rates and earnings, higher voting
rates, increased church attendance, and home ownership.75 These benefits and associated economic
returns have only been found for programs that are high-quality. Benefits have been found for larger
scale programs including the Chicago Child Parent Centers, Head Start and Early Head Start. By contrast,
length of attendance in typical child care has been associated with modest negative outcomes.
As policymakers design programs and make decisions regarding early education, they should invest in
programs that support development of the whole child, including academic, social, and emotional skills.
Recommendations for policymakers are as follows:
1. Include enhanced social and emotional development as a key goal of preschool education programs.
This does not mean that enhanced cognitive development should be de-emphasized. Both aspects of
children’s development are important, and one need not be sacrificed to support the other.
2. Standards should spell out the outcomes that preschool education programs are expected to achieve
for social and emotional development.
Performance standards for preschool education programs should include explicit mention of social and
emotional development. The new draft of National Association for the Education of Young Children
accreditation standards include discussion of promotion of social and emotional skills and can provide
guidance for program administrators who are considering launching new preschool programs.76
Then, when policymakers require that progress be measured by indicators, those indicators should map
onto the performance standards and should therefore also include measures of social and emotional
development. Seventeen states have launched school readiness indicator projects, and their work can
provide examples of such indicators.77
3. Expand access to high-quality preschool education programs so that more children can benefit
from educational experiences that will improve their socio-emotional development.
Nationally, only a few states have committed to funding preschool for all 4-year-olds whose parents
wish them to attend.78 High-quality infant and toddler programs, even for the most disadvantaged
children remain rare. Substantial new investments should be made to increase access to high-quality
child care and preschool education programs designed specifically to enhance early learning and
development, broadly defined.
Promoting Children’s Social and Emotional Development Through Preschool [15]
4. Ensure that all preschool programs are high-quality because only educational programs will support
children’s social and emotional development. Such programs have strong leadership, well-prepared
teachers, a balanced curriculum, reasonable class sizes and ratios, and partnerships with parents.
5. Provide administrators and teachers with technical assistance and training to help them implement
effective curricula and teaching practices that support children’s social and emotional development.
Studies demonstrate that, beyond the traditional aspects of program quality, the content of the curriculum
and the teaching practices that teachers employ are critical determinants of a program’s ability to
benefit children’s social and emotional development. Policymakers should ensure that resources are
available to help teachers put into practice the best approaches for promoting children’s social and
emotional development.


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