You’d be hard-pressed to find a more solid case for the importance of good early education: A study published late last week by Science shows that attendance at the Chicago Parent-Child Centers – a program designed to extend from pre-k through 3rd grade in the inner city’s public schools – is connected to a person’s success in life 25 years later.
Arthur Reynolds, a professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, and his research team have been tracking attendees of the centers, known as CPCs, since they were preschoolers. Their latest research, which was made available on Science Express ahead of print publication, is a strong reminder that early education programs are a critical part of education reform as well as improving the next generation’s well-being.
The study found that those in the program known as “extended intervention” (which covered ages 3 to 9) were doing better at age 28 than a control group of their peers. In sum, they:
- Stayed in school longer
- Completed high school at higher rates
- Graduated from high school on-time at higher rates
- Had higher socio-economic status
- Had a job with higher prestige
In addition to the study's ability to track the program's impact into adulthood, the study is notable for the way it provides data on differences across many variables -- such as the length of time that children were in the program, how much preschool alone provided a boost, and how the program affected children from different family backgrounds.
For example, when comparing children who went to a CPC preschool versus those who did not, the researchers found that the preschool group had lower rates of crime and less involvement with the justice system than their counterparts. (Most of the children in the non-preschool group were cared for by parents or relatives during those years, with 15 percent attending Head Start.)
"We found that the most consistent and enduring effects were for preschool participation, which started at ages 3 or 4. Its impact was broad, including education, SES, health behavior, and crime outcomes," Reynolds and his team wrote.
When comparing children who attended 4 years of the CPC program versus those who attended for 5 or 6 years, children in the latter group were arrested at a lower rate.
For more, check out the coverage on the Birth to Thrive blog, which wrote about the new findings just hours after Science released the study.
Also hear Arthur Reynolds discuss the findings in last week’s Science podcast.