"Child Care Quality and School Readiness: Quality Effects and Variation by Demographic and Child Characteristics"

Presented during the Educational Policy Symposium, Society for Research in Educational Effectiveness, March 9, 2012, Washington, D.C.

Conference Theme: Understanding Variation in Treatment Effects

Authors: Tran D. Keys, George Farkas, Margaret R. Burchinal, Greg J. Duncan, Deborah L. Vandell, Weilin Li, Erik A. Ruzek, and Carollee Howes


This paper examines associations between observed quality in child care center classrooms for 3- and 4-year-olds and the school readiness skills of these children in kindergarten. Secondary analyses were conducted using data from 4 large-scale studies to estimate the main effects of observed classroom quality and interactions between quality and demographic and child characteristics. Findings were summarized across studies via meta-analytic methods. Results indicate small but statistically significant associations for child care center quality on language outcomes with little evidence of moderation. Observed child care quality was not reliably related to other school readiness outcomes (mathematics, social skills, and externalizing problem behaviors). We discuss several possible explanations for the small effect sizes and the general lack of differential effects.