Assessing the Evaluations of Early Childhood Education Programs

Chapter 20 - The Milwaukee Project
Introduction to the Original Evaluation (Excerpt)

The Milwaukee Project operated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 1966 to 1972. It was premised on the belief that the major factor behind the observed decline in IQ for low-income children as they grew older was not poverty, but rather the failure of parents to provide a stimulating environment for their children. Those children whose parents had low IQs themselves were thought to be particularly at risk. The purpose of the project was to offset the progressive decline in IQ of infants identified as at risk for such declines. In order to do so, the project provided an intensive, six-year program offering services for both mother and child, including a year-round center-based educational program for children, beginning as soon after birth as feasible (usually within six months).

Howard Garber and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (the "UWM team") evaluated the Milwaukee Project using a random assignment-like process. The evaluation found large IQ effects at age five and at the end of eighth grade, but few lasting impacts on achievement. One possible explanation for the IQ effects, particularly during the intervention phase of the program, is that the children were taught skills that were similar to the items found on IQ tests for young children. Moreover, the small sample and high level of attrition raise many questions about the credibility of the findings.

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