High-quality preschool can teach non-cognitive skills that persist into adulthood, writes Jonah Lehrer on Wired, citing a paper by economists Flavio Cunha and James Heckman.
Among their examples is the Perry Preschool Experiment, which involved low-income, low-IQ black children in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The preschool group and the control group have been tracked through age 40.
Adults assigned to the preschool program were 20 percent more likely to have graduated from high school and 19 percent less likely to have been arrested more than five times. They got much better grades, were more likely to remain married and were less dependent on welfare programs.
Preschool pushed up IQ for a few years, but gains faded by second grade. However, improvements in non-cognitive areas, such as “self-control, persistence and grit,” persisted. These skills can be more important than IQ, the researchers say.
. . . dependability is the trait most valued by employers, while “perseverance, dependability and consistency are the most important predictors of grades in school.”
Investing in high-quality early childhood education for high-risk children is very cost effective, Cunha and Heckman write, estimating a return of $8 to $9 for every dollar invested.
Via Early Stories.
All this reminds me of the $320,000 kindergarten teacher, another argument that vvery good early education can teach behavioral and emotional skills that benefit children as they grow up, even if they don’t do better on cognitive measures.
With the preschool example, it’s important to remember that the Perry Preschool — and Abcedarian, which the study also cites — represent very high-quality programs that did far more than most preschools. Perry included home visits. Some mothers were trained and hired as preschool aides; their children did the best. Abcedarian provided full-time child care from shortly after birth.