First, it included a much larger sample size. Second, the experimental design used existing infrastructure including public schools, publicly-funded home visiting programs, and other community supports to deliver the program to families.
The per-child cost was an order of magnitude less than earlier studies, and comparable to what governments are currently spending on preschool programs.
Researchers followed the initial cohort of children through their academic careers and into early adulthood. The results? Increased graduation rates, decreased grade retention and assignment to special education, and lower rates of interaction with the juvenile criminal system.
According to a 2001 analysis of the program, participation in preschool is positively associated with behavior and learning outcomes that are accurate predictors of adult economic and social well being. Benefits to society are measured both in dollars saved through academic and social success, and dollars contributed through increased personal earning — and spending — power.
Based on the evidence, we should go forward with plans to increase access to preschool. We just need to keep in mind lessons learned over the last 150 years: Children are only part of the story — strong families are the whole story.
About the author: Mary Manner is coordinator of the Great Start Traverse Bay/Manistee Collaborative. Its Great Start/Great Futures Summit will be held March 18 at NMC’s Hagerty Center. Register at www.tcchamber.org
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