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Early Steps to School Success

Research Team

Principal Investigator: Helen Raikes

Funding Information

Funding Agency: Save the Children

Award Date: Sep 1, 2011

End Date: Dec 31, 2017


Early Steps to School Success (ESSS), a program developed by Save the Children International, targets low-income and non-English speaking children in 130 rural communities across the U.S. The program features:

  1. Language and literacy-focused home visits for children from birth to age 3.
  2. Book bags with a regular supply of new books for parents to read to children from birth to age 5.
  3. Enrollment of 3-year-old children in quality pre-K programs and auspice through public schools. 
The study conducts a national evaluation of 17 sites in Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska and South Carolina. The evaluation compares children birth to age 3 who receive services with comparable children who did not receive home visits, using a quasi-experimental design. 

Kindergarten entry scores for the population of these rural communities will be analyzed, which will enable researchers to determine whether communitywide early childhood education services (e.g., ESSS, Head Start, school-based pre-K) separately — and in combination — lead to changes in kindergartners’ English receptive language scores and reduce achievement gaps for non-English speaking children and children in poverty. 

Participants in the 17 communities include 510 children and their families will be studied. While all 17 communities are rural, there is considerable variation in low-income families who live in these communities and who are eligible for the ESSS program. Approximately half the communities have sizable Spanish-speaking families, and the particular effects of birth to age 5 services for Spanish-speaking children will be of interest.

Early Education & Development