Is daycare good for my child? Daycare effects on school performance.

By Nestor Lopez-Duran PhD

One drawback of our culture of individualism is that it perpetuates the myth that we all have equal opportunities for success and that the only thing that is needed to achieve our goals is personal effort. The research on environmental contributions to academic and professional success strongly argues against this myth. Actually, our privileges and disadvantages start at birth. For example, factors associated with parental socio-economic status during early childhood, such as parental education, has a major impact on childrens academic performance. The critical question is why is this the case and what can we do about it.

One well supported theory purports that that these kids are exposed to limited learning experiences before they start school, which leads to poor school readiness. This means that these kids are already behind their peers when they enter kindergarten and thus have  difficulty catching up throughout their education. If this is the case, providing rich learning opportunities to these kids before they start kindergarten, such as those provided at daycare centers, could have a major impact on the kids school readiness and academic achievement.

In an article just published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry a team from the University of Montreal studied the daycare experiences and academic performance of 1,863 children born in 1997 and 1998. They were interested in examining whether the expected differences in school readiness and achievement between kids with advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds persisted if the kids attended quality daycare.

The results:

– As expected, kids of parents with limited education scored lower in tests of academic readiness before starting first grade and performed worse in academic achievement tests in 1st grade than kids whos parents had more education.

– However, attending daycare before kindergarten greatly improved the performance of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. In contrast, for  kids whose parents had high levels of education, attending daycare didnt change their academic performance.

– In addition, attending daycare, whether formal or informal, eliminated the gap between the kids in some key measures. For example:

The lollipop test is a well known measure of academic readiness. As you can see, there was no difference in scores between kids of mothers with high or low levels of education as long as the kids attended daycare. In contrast, not attending daycare had a great negative impact on the academic readiness of the kids whose mothers had low levels of education.  These effects were observed after controlling for a long list of possible explanatory variables, such as gender, birth weight, maternal age, income, breastfeeding, etc.

In conclusion, this study suggests that attending daycare has a significant positive impact on academic readiness and achievement for kids of parents with limited education.

I know, I have to work on the brief portion of Mondays briefs .

This post is sponsored by Kendall College. Get your early childhood education degree.


Geoffroy, M., Côté, S., Giguère, C., Dionne, G., Zelazo, P., Tremblay, R., Boivin, M., & Séguin, J. (2010). Closing the gap in academic readiness and achievement: the role of early childcare Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02316.x