High-Quality Pre-K Yields Lasting Gains for Children
Brief brings together the research on "fade-out"

News release

As its Commission on Early Childhood prepares final recommendations, SREB brings together the research on what children gain from high-quality prekindergarten programs. The brief, Confronting the Fade-Out Debate: Children Flourish and Gains Do Last in High-Quality Pre-K Programs, focuses on what the research findings suggest about state priorities for early learning.

A one-page companion piece highlights main points.

Pre-K yields short-term academic gains. After one year, children who participated in pre-K showed substantial gains compared with children who did not.

Pre-K yields long-term academic benefits, too. Some studies showed that the academic gaps –  between children who attended pre-K and those who did not –  narrow somewhat as students grow older. But the overall gains do not fade away.

Pre-K also yields substantial nonacademic benefits. Pre-K provides positive social, emotional, physical and behavioral benefits over a lifetime, especially for children from low-income families.

Lessons learned

The body of research on early childhood offers several conclusions that can inform policy.

Quality – especially teacher quality – is the most important element in whether children reap long-term academic gains from pre-K.

Early investments in education yield larger returns than those made later in life.

High-risk children – those from low-income or dual-language families, for example – stand to gain the most from high-quality pre-K programs.

State-by-state data

SREB states have led the nation in access to state-funded early childhood programs.  The brief includes data for each SREB state on:

  • pre-K enrollment
  • poverty levels
  • percentages of students retained or placed in special education
  • NAEP fourth-grade reading results
  • states that meet NIEER teaching-quality standards


The Southern Regional Education Board works with states to improve public education at every level, from early childhood through doctoral education. A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Atlanta, SREB was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. SREB member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.