Assessing the Evaluations of Early Childhood Education Programs

Chapter 26 - Syracuse Family Development Research Program
Introduction to the Original Evaluation (Excerpt)

The Syracuse Family Development Research Program (FDRP), which operated in Syracuse, New York from 1969 to 1975, "attempted to break the well-documented link between low-education, low-income households and children's later educational difficulties." The program was designed "to influence the permanent environment of the child, the family and the home." The program was parent-centered, and "weekly contact with mothers and other family members in the home of each child was stressed as the key intervention component."1 This contact was achieved through weekly home visits, guided by the approach of "nonjudgmental family advocacy."2 Although the evaluation did not use random assignment, it is included in this volume because it is often cited as proof that early childhood programs work.

Peter L. Mangione, J. Ronald Lally and Alice S. Honig,3 researchers at Syracuse University (the "Syracuse team") conducted the evaluation using a comparison-group design (not random assignment), comparing children who participated in the program from 1969-1971 to "similar" children in other neighborhoods. The Syracuse team reported significant improvements in school performance for girls and reductions in juvenile delinquency among both boys and girls in adolescence. FDRP has often been cited as an effective crime prevention program.4 Severe attrition and possible selection bias, however, seriously undermine these findings.

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