Linda Zane

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2009


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Instructional Leadership Excellence (ILEAD)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Joseph Kush, William Barone

Committee Member

Rodney Hopson

Committee Member

Roberta Schomburg


academic achievement, achievement gap, early childhood education, ECLS-K, educational inequality, Head Start


It can be argued that the current Black-White achievement gap provides evidence for a long-standing history of racial inequity within American society, as well as an informative barometer of progress toward educational parity. By all accounts, the measurements registered by this barometer continue to be cause for alarm. The disturbing Black-White achievement gap has been shown to be present in both mathematics and reading at every grade studied, from grades one through twelve (Jacobson, Olsen, Rice, Sweetland, & Ralph, 2001).

Many solutions have been put forth in an effort to reduce or eliminate this gap, but the findings of this research study point to early childhood education as one of the most promising. The nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study--Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (ECLS-K) kindergarten and first-grade data sets were utilized to examine mathematics and reading performance in relation to child care arrangements prior to kindergarten.

Multiple regression analyses provided evidence of the positive and significant impact of center-based early childhood education prior to kindergarten upon both reading and mathematics test scores. This positive impact was especially strong for Black kindergarten students, and this influence continued into the fifth grade, refuting the notion of "fade-out." In addition, center-based care outshone any of the other forms of early education; the strength of these results lies in the generalizability and reliability of the ECLS-K sample size and research design. The findings provided by this study make a compelling case for the impact of early childhood education upon the lives of young children, and the key role it can play in the elimination of the pervasive Black-White achievement gap.