Benefits of a Developmentally Appropriate Program

Repeatedly, research has validated that there are long-term benefits to developmentally appropriate preschool that are not academic (Barnett & Hustedt, 2003). Attendees of developmentally appropriate ECEC programs are less likely to be retained in grade, drop out of high school, be placed in special education, demonstrate delinquent behavior, remain on welfare, or require criminal justice (Barnett, 1996; Masse & Barnett, 2002; Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, & Mann, 2002).

Other benefits of a developmentally appropriate approach to early childhood education have been verified by developmental psychologists and educational researchers, many of which are enumerated by Rebecca Marcon in her 2002 quasi-experimental follow-up study. Benefits of a developmentally appropriate preschool program are demonstrated through the positive classroom climate which is conducive to children’s healthy emotional development. This in turn can be seen in the children who exhibit less stress and higher levels of motivation to learn. Academically, the classroom environment facilitates creativity, increased verbal skills and receptive language skills, and higher levels of cognitive functioning. Higher achievement scores are seen throughout the primary grade years and smoother transitions occur from primary to later elementary grades with academic gains holding constant.

The notion of development-based strategies does not mean that children are left to explore and experiment with materials without careful teacher preparation. Rather, the teacher’s role is critical in planning, observing, and guiding learning through direct instruction, environmental support, appropriate materials, and thoughtful questioning strategies. Children are not left to their own devices. “Without a nurturing, playful, responsive environment, an academic focus may diminish children’s engagement and motivation. But a ‘child-centered’ environment that lacks intellectual challenges also falls short of what curious young learners deserve” (Hyson, 2003). The academic aptitude of young children is dependent upon the teacher’s ability to focus the environment and activities so as to maximize the learning goals necessary for on-going educational success.


Barnett, W.S. (1996). Lives in the balance: Age 27 benefit-cost analysis of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.

Barnett, W.S., & Hustedt, J. T. (2003). Preschool: The Most Important Grade. Educational Leadership, 60(7), 54-57.

Hyson, M. (2003). Putting Early Academics in Their Place. Educational Leadership, 60(7), 20-23.

Masse, L.N., & Barnett, W.S. (2002). A benefit-cost analysis of the Abecedarian Early Childhood Intervention. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers University.

Marcon, R. (2002). Moving up the grades: Relationship between model and later school success. Early Childhood Research and Practice, (4) 1. Retrieved July 9, 2004 from:

Reynolds, A., Temple, J., Robertson, D., & Mann, E. (2002). Age 21 cost-benefit analysis of the Title I Chicago Child-Parent Centers. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin (Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Paper #1245-02). In Stewart, Sonja M. and Berryman, Jerome W. (1989). Young children and worship. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press. ISBN: 0-664-25040-8.