Craig Ramey

By Jim Stroup/Virginia Tech

Craig Ramey, PhD, launched the Abecedarian Project in 1972 to understand the long-term effects of early education on the cognitive and social development of children.

Craig Ramey honored by Fordham University

Craig Ramey, a professor and distinguished research scholar at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, was recently honored with an Excellence in Early Childhood Award from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education.

Ramey received the award on April 17 at the 10th Annual Young Child Expo and Conference, where he was a keynote speaker. Three hundred early childhood educators attended the conference in New York City, which was cosponsored by the Graduate School of Education and Los Niños Services.

Ramey’s presentation, “The Abecedarian Approach to Early Intervention,” focused on the importance of early childhood education. He shared the results of his Abecedarian Study, which, over the course of his career, has studied 100,000 children and their families in 40 states.

The first experiment, launched nearly 40 years ago with 112 children from families living well below the poverty line, overwhelmingly showed that children who received early education—coupled with a high-quality nutrition plan, pediatric care, and social work services—were more likely to score within a normal IQ range. Abecedarian program graduates also have had better math and reading skills, have been more likely to graduate from high school and attend and graduate from a four-year college, and are more likely to be employed full time. They are less likely to become pregnant as teenagers, to smoke or use drugs, or to report depression.

Ramey believes that early childhood education must be prominently reflected in public policy.

“We have settled for less than ideal, at times because we think it’s all we can afford. But I reject that notion,” he said. “We know that childhood poverty is something you pay for while it happens, and then you pay later for conditions that don’t get ameliorated when the poverty itself doesn’t end.”

Further, he believes, early childhood educators are critical to this process and must be properly compensated.

“We need to pay the people who provide care and education not just a living wage, but a really good wage,” he said. “You are the people who change lives. You do it one day at a time, which is the way that all brains get changed.”