Report Confirms Positive Impact Of New Jersey Preschool System

UNION CITY—A new study on the effects of preschool found that children who attended the high quality Abbott preschool education program outperformed their peers in first and second grades, and children who had two years of preschool rather than just one had double the advantages, state officials announced last week.

The study, The APPLES Blossom: Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES) Results through 2nd Grade, conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers. Authored by Ellen Frede, Kwanghee Jung, Steven Barnett, and Alexandra Figueras, the analysis followed children who had participated in Abbott district preschools through second grade.


Education Commissioner Lucille Davy unveiled the study and discussed the findings with parents, teachers and community members at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Center for Early Childhood Education in Union City.

“These findings not only reflect considerable differences in learning and ability by the children who attended Abbott’s high-quality preschools, but also result in savings to taxpayers who do not have to pay for extra years of schooling,” said Davy. “We anticipate these benefits will continue to grow as the effects of the preschool continue into the upper grades.”

According to the study:
• Preschool attendees perform better in oral language and conceptual knowledge
• Reading skills differences favor the Abbott Preschool Group
• Pre-k attendance results in improved mathematics achievement
• Grade retention was cut in half

Preschool classroom quality has been assessed in the Abbott districts almost annually since the program started.  This year, researchers at William Patterson University conducted the assessment for the DOE and reported a rise in Abbott classroom quality.  The average Abbott classroom scored better than “good” (a score of 5) and most programs were in the good-to-excellent range (5 to 7).

The Abbott preschool programs were developed as a result of Abbott v. Burke V, in which the New Jersey Supreme Court established basic program standards for preschool education in the Abbott districts that included a maximum class size of 15, certified teachers with early childhood expertise, assistant teachers in every classroom, comprehensive services, and a developmentally appropriate curriculum designed to meet learning standards.

Enrollment in the Abbott preschool program has increased dramatically since its inception in 1999.  During the 2008-2009 school year, the 10th year of Abbott preschool implementation, the 31 Abbott districts served over 43,000 3- and 4-year-old children in preschool, about 80 percent of all eligible students.

The preschool program is provided through a mixed public-private delivery system overseen by the public schools. Private childcare providers and Head Start agencies contract with local boards of education to serve about two-thirds of the children.  The remaining students are served in public school classrooms.

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