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.