In recent years, political consensus has grown around expanding school services downward in the form of investing in preschool. However, amidst this early-childhood policy renaissance, scholars and policy analysts have paid increasing attention to the well documented, “fade out” of measured benefits of these types of one-shot early interventions. While it makes intuitive sense for evaluations of early childhood investments to focus on the goal of lasting measurable benefits, a focus on “fade-out” or convergence of performance, neglecting policy-sensitive subsequent experiences merits scrutiny. Just as those interested in educational equity in the k-12 system have increasingly looked beyond the school walls to find solutions to vexing “achievement gaps,” this talk suggests early childhood researchers look beyond design and implementation of preschool or head start programs into developing sustaining supportive environments for the children they serve. This talk examined evidence of important interactions between early-childhood programs and the school and neighborhood experiences that follow, drawing primarily on recent evidence from the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K program and re-examinations of early Head Start. Ultimately, it highlighted lessons from the broader K-12 and social policy literature on modeling effect persistence and accounting for potential moderators and dynamic complementarities in coordinated longitudinal anti-poverty policy.
Walker Swain, assistant professor of Educational Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia, is an interdisciplinary policy researcher focused on issues of educational equity, poverty, and inequality. His recent work has examined intersections of education and health, teacher policy, early childhood education, neighborhood change and school choice. His research has been published in Sociology of Education, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, AERA Open, Human Nature, and the Sanford Journal of Public Policy. Media coverage of his research includes The Atlantic, Education Week, NPR, The Social Pages, City Lab, PACE, The Conversation, The Tennessean, and Black Enterprise. He is also a former middle school science teacher and basketball coach. Swain holds a B.A. in political science and biology from UNC-Chapel Hill, an M.A. in teaching from the University of Louisville, a Master’s Degree in public policy from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, and a PhD in leadership and policy studies from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.