WSIPP Report Shows ECEAP a Great Investment

In 2014, the state legislature asked the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to conduct a retrospective outcome analysis of the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), looking back to 2003-4.  The study compared 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade test scores from children who had attended ECEAP to those of similar children who had not.

The results were impressive and sustained.

Lasting Impacts of ECEAP

  • The study concluded that ‘children who attended ECEAP had significantly higher math and reading scores in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades compared to children who did not attend the program”.  And the ‘effect sizes’ are as good or better than some of the top full-day state programs in the country, like Abbott Pre-k in New Jersey, one of the Gates Foundation ‘exemplar programs‘, and twice as good as the average state pre-k program.
  • Return on Investment – just based on these impressive test scores, WSIPP found a return of $13,030 for each ECEAP participant, and that doesn’t fully incorporate two of the major economic benefits of early learning – high school graduation and crime prevention.  Previous WSIPP cost-benefit analysis for ECEAP estimated a $4.20 return for every dollar invested.

ECEAP might be even better than study shows

Because the study looked primarily at 3rd-5th grade test scores, the researchers were limited to looking at ECEAP before 2009.  Today ECEAP looks even better than in 2008 – 33% more classroom hours, restrictions on caseload for family support workers, greater emphasis on research-based curriculum and assessment, and participation in Early Achievers.

The study used participation in ‘Basic Food’ as a comparison group for the non-ECEAP kids, which meant that the overall income level and percentage of native English speakers was higher than the general ECEAP population, and that an estimated 20-25% of those kids may have attended Head Start.  Given that ECEAP closely mirrors Head Start and that most children are in programs who provide both, outcomes are likely to be higher for ECEAP if those kids were separated out of the comparison group.

A Successful Model

When ECEAP was established, the legislature recognized the challenges faced by this high-risk population, and created a program that addresses the needs of the whole child – a high quality classroom with individualized learning plans, attention to the health of the child, and fully engaging the family to ensure that the child is supported and gains are sustained.  ECEAP is one of the few state pre-k programs who adopted this model, and this study proves that it works.

Printable version, including ECEAP fact sheet