To address these challenges, we must start early. Children’s earliest years are a critical time during which the most rapid brain development happens. This foundation informs their cognition, health, and behavior throughout life.
Research shows that high-quality early education programs deliver real, measurable results in improving outcomes for kids. Such programs can prepare children to start school with critical early math and reading skills, improve student performance, boost graduation rates, deter youth from crime, and even reduce obesity rates by instilling healthy eating and exercise habits at a young age.
For example, a long-term study of the Perry Preschool Program in Michigan found that children who participated in the program were 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school than children left out of the program. A similar study of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers showed that children who did not participate in the program were 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18.
A growing body of research also shows that state early education programs, if they are of high enough quality, can deliver solid results.
A new, national study from the Upjohn Institute analyzes thousands of public school district pre-K programs and finds that in states with high-quality programs, there are benefits persisting to at least fourth grade, with significant boosts to math scores.
Here in New Jersey, our state-funded preschool program has followed children through the fourth and fifth grades and found that, compared with a control group, the children served were three-fourths of a year ahead in math and two-thirds of a year ahead in literacy. They were also 31 percent less likely to be placed in special education and were held back 40 percent less often.