High-quality preschool pays off

The Chicago Public Schools’ federally funded Child-Parent Centers, started in 1967, provide high-quality preschool and after-school programs for disadvantaged children in early elementary school. The program generates $4 to $11 of benefits for every dollar it costs, concludes the National Institutes of Health.

CPC facilities, located in or near elementary schools in poor Chicago neighborhoods, are staffed by certified teachers and offer instruction in reading and math, small group activities and educational field trips for children ages 3 through 9. The centers also provide meals and health screening. Center staff offer support services such as parenting or job skills training to parents and encourage them to volunteer in the classroom and to help supervise student field trips.

The researchers analyzed education, employment, criminal justice and child welfare records for the participants through to age 26. A previous analysis found that children who had been enrolled in the centers were more likely to go to college,work full time and have health insurance and less likely to go to prison or suffer from depression.

However, the study did not assign children randomly, so it’s possible the CPC children had more motivated parents.  The non-CPC children went to another program or did not attend preschool.

“These findings suggest that high-quality education programs focused on preschool through the elementary grades may produce long term benefits not only for the children enrolled, but for society as well,” said Alan E. Guttmacher, director of the . . .  NIH institute that funded the study. “The findings also provide evidence that combining early education with job skills training and other instruction for parents also may increase benefits for children.”

Ninety-three percent of the children in the study were African-American and 7 percent were Hispanic.

Researchers estimated the value of increased lifetime earnings, taxes paid on these earnings and savings on schooling (fewer children repeating a grade), health care, depression treatment, child welfare services and criminal-justice costs.

Lifetime benefits were greater for children who started CPC in preschool compared to those who started in elementary school.  Greater benefits also were found for certain subsets, such as boys, children living in higher-poverty areas and those in high-risk homes.

Compared to Head Start, which doesn’t produce lasting benefits for children, the CPCs are much more intensive and long-term and provide more parental support. The average preschool isn’t a game changer for very disadvantaged children. They need more.

Via Shanker Blog.

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Comments

  1. Oooo, the “reformers” are not going to like this, they’ve been trying to gut preschool programs for years

  2. Note that “for disadvantaged children” disappears fron the conclusion: ““ ‘These findings suggest that high-quality education programs focused on preschool through the elementary grades may produce long term benefits not only for the children enrolled, but for society as well,’ said Alan E. Guttmacher, director of the . . . NIH institute that funded the study.”

    There’s a huge problem with any generalization to the population at large. By analogy, drop two groups of 100 fifty miles apart in the Sahara, without food or water. Supply one group with10,000 gallons of polluted water, a ton of rotten meat, and a ton of spoiled vegetables. Supply the other group with nothing. Return in two weeks and compare survival rates. Can you then conclude that that polluted water, rotten meat, and spoiled vegetables will enhance the longevity of people who have access to clean water and fresh food?

  3. Homeschooling Granny says:

    I suspect that it is the parental involvement that makes the difference. There is more “take home’ effect when parents are involved.

  4. chartermom says:

    To me this is the key sentence:

    “However, the study did not assign children randomly, so it’s possible the CPC children had more motivated parents. The non-CPC children went to another program or did not attend preschool.”

    So what factors were used to assign students? What factors made a child a CPC student and would those same kids have thrived because of those other factors even without the CPC? Without knowing how children were assigned, this proves nothing.

  5. The even-more-intensive (and expensive) Perry preschool project also showed big payoffs, but only because the children involved were so likely to crash and burn. For instance, if I’m recalling the details correctly, much of the financial return came from reducing the percentage of children who had been arrested five or more times from 55 percent to 39 percent. Important for those 11 or 12 children (it was a very small study) but not relevant for the very large majority of children who would not be arrested five or more times anyway.

  6. I think it is important to consider what Linda S points out. Focussing significant resources on truly disadvantaged kids likely has significant results, however applying the same resources to kids all across the spectrum is less compelling.

    If we do have limited resources let”s focus on those most likely to benefit.