A Noble Bet in Early Care and Education: Lessons from One Community's Experience

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Rand, Jul 1, 2002 - Education - 146 pages
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The Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) was an ambitious effort launched inPittsburgh in 1996 to provide high-quality early care and education servicesto at-risk children, on a countywide scale and under the direction of localneighborhood agencies. Its goal was to improve the preparation of thesechildren for kindergarten, promote their long-term educational attainment,and give them the early tools to help them become productive, successfulmembers of society. Initially funded by foundations and private donors, ECIplanned to become financially sustainable over the long term by persuadingthe state of Pennsylvania to commit to funding the program at the end of astartup period.Four years after its launch, ECI was far short of its enrollment targets,the cost per child was significantly higher than expected, and the effort tosecure a commitment of state funding had failed. ECI was therefore convertedto a small-scale demonstration program, leaving a residue of disappointmentin many communities around the county. Although findings from a parallelstudy suggest that participating children may have derived substantialbenefits from ECI, it failed to achieve its goals in terms of scale andsustainability.In the aftermath of ECI's scale-down, RAND was commissioned by the HeinzEndowments (ECI's largest funder) to study why ECI fell short of itsobjectives and to learn from its mistakes. The findings of the study arepresented in this report, which summarizes ECI's organizational history,analyzes and explains critical weaknesses that hindered ECI's ability tosucceed, and articulates lessons to inform the design and implementation offuture large-scale reform initiatives, whether in early care and educationor in other areas of social services.

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