Preschool Program Gives High Risk Children a Chance at a Better Life

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Preschool is not only a place to learn ABC’s, 123’s, and coloring inside the lines. A new study has found that an organized full-time preschool program that sees children through elementary school actually gives children a chance at a better adulthood.

Preschool Prepares Students for Lifetime Learning

Arthur J. Reynolds, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute of Child Development, and a team of researchers followed almost 1,400 children – 989 of whom were enrolled in the five-day-a-week Chicago-based Child-Parent Center Education Program from 1983 to 1989. The program emphasized language development and literacy.

The children enrolled in the preschool program at age 3 so they could get the most benefit from its services. All teachers were certified in early childhood education and the program was coupled with outreach servicers that involved parents in their child’s education.

The remaining 550 children in the study either stayed at home until kindergarten or were involved in Head Start, a federally-funded, comprehensive early childhood development program primarily serving at-risk preschool age children and their families.
All of the children in the study went on to full-day kindergarten and received social services.

Read: Preschoolers Who Spend Time With Books Less Likely to Have Behavioral Problems

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Twenty-five years later, the kids who went through the preschool program had higher incomes, higher education levels (25% increase in the number who finished high school, 24% in the number that completed four years of college), and were less likely to abuse drugs or be involved in criminal activities. The young adults were also more likely to health insurance coverage.

Preschool also seemed to be especially beneficial for males and children from high-risk or impoverished families.

Read: Education Linked to Better Health, Lower Blood Pressure

Reynolds says that the school-based program was particularly beneficial because it provided continuity. “(The) kids stay in the same environment through elementary school,” he said. “It promotes positive transitions from one grade to the next.”

"These effects haven't been found before for public programs, so the findings are encouraging to provide access to high-quality programs through public funding for kids at risk," said Reynolds. “This program can reduce the disparities in education and success.”

The report was published in the June 9 issue of Science.

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