Chapter 25 - Project Giant Step
Introduction to the Original Evaluation (Excerpt)
Project Giant Step, operating in New York City between 1986 and 1990, was New York City mayor Ed Koch's "bold attempt to institute a universal program that will provide comprehensive services to all four-year-olds in New York beginning with those low-income children and their families in New York City who are unserved by existing programs." The program, however, was suspended after its fourth year of operation, before it could be expanded beyond its initial phase. Despite being short-lived, Project Giant Step is included in this document because of its innovative methodology.
Jean Layzer, Barbara Goodson, and Judith Layzer, researchers at Abt Associates ("the Abt team"), compared the test scores of samples of children in Giant Step from the 1987-1988 and 1988-1989 school years to the expected test scores of the children (based on the children's pre-test scores) if they had not participated in the program. They found that children who attended Project Giant Step made significant cognitive gains—about twice what would have been expected as part of normal development. Giant Step children also showed improvements in their ability to work with adults and other children and to organize, manage, and complete classroom tasks. Additionally, the program positively affected parents' attitudes towards child rearing and child development. While promising, these findings need to be regarded with a degree of caution due to the absence of a random assignment design, the unvalidated testing instruments that were used for the children's social and behavioral assessment, and high rates of attrition in the second cohort of children. In addition, the proposed evaluation to follow the children through kindergarten and first grade was cancelled and no attempt has been made to assess the long-term impacts of the program.
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