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A Lesson Missouri Can Learn from New Jersey’s Abbott Schools

In one of the most important steps to protect poor and minority students since Brown v. Board of Education, the state of New Jersey has transformed preschool education for some of the lowest-income students in the United States.

The multi-part litigation generally referred to as Abbott v. Burke covers educational issues that were first raised in New Jersey in the 1970s. The case resulted in the New Jersey Supreme Court requiring New Jersey to create a high-quality preschool education program for the 31 highest-poverty school districts in New Jersey, including providing all students with a safe, educationally adequate, and not-overcrowded school facility.

According to the advocacy group Education Law Center, the Abbott rulings, “directed implementation of a comprehensive set of remedial measures, including high quality early education, supplemental programs and reforms, and school facilities improvements, to ensure an adequate and equal education for low-income schoolchildren.” (source)

Implementation began during the 1999-2000 school year, and in 2005-6, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University began a longitudinal study to evaluate the state’s efforts.

NIEER looked at the effects the improved preschool programs had on students’ language arts, mathematics, and science skills over time. What they found was impressive:

· “…persistent gains in all tested subjects on the state assessments, with larger test score gains for children who participated in two years of preschool.” (source)
· “…participation was linked to lower retention rates and fewer children needing special education.” (source)
· “In 1999-2000, less than 15% of pre-K classrooms were good to excellent and nearly 1 in 4 was less than minimal quality. By 2007-08 the vast majority of classrooms were good to excellent. (source)
· “The Abbott model totally transformed the quality preschool education using essentially the same programs (2/3 private) and teachers.” (source)
· The effects of attending two years of the program were “large enough to close about half the achievement gap between low-income children and their more advantaged peers.” (source)
· “Abbott pre-K reduced grade repetition from 19% to 12%” (source)
· “Abbott pre-K reduced special education from 17% to 12% through 5th grade.” (source)

So how did New Jersey do it?
Come back to the Missouri Parent Blog for Part II in this post on New Jersey’s Abbott Schools.

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