3 News 10 Jun 2011
Preschool has surprisingly enduring benefits lasting well into adulthood, according to one of the biggest, longest follow-up studies of its kind. Better jobs, less drug abuse and fewer arrests are among advantages found in the study that tracked more than 1,000 low-income, mostly black Chicago kids for up to 25 years. Michael Washington was one of them. Now a 31-year-old heating and air conditioning contractor, Washington attended a year of preschool at Chicago’s intensive Child-Parent Centre Education Program when he was four. The ongoing publicly-funded program focuses on language development, scholastic skills and building self-confidence. It involves one or two years of half-day preschool, and up to four additional years of educational and family services in grade school. Preschool teachers have college degrees and are certified in early childhood education, and parents are encouraged to be involved in the classes.
The study tracked nearly 900 children into adulthood who attended the program in the early 1980s, and compared them to almost 500 low-income Chicago youngsters, most of whom didn’t attend preschool. The results were published Thursday in the online version of the journal Science. They bolster findings from similar, smaller studies and show that high-quality preschool “gives you your biggest bang for the buck,” said Dr. Pamela High, chair of an American Academy of Pediatrics committee that deals with early childhood issues. She was not involved in the study. Though many preschool kids also got extra services in grade school, including intensive reading instruction, the researchers found the most enduring effects, particularly for non-academic success, were due to one or two years of preschool. The authors theorize that those intensive early childhood experiences built intellectual skills, social adjustment and motivation that helped children better navigate their high-risk environments.