PerspectiveEducation

Preschool Matters

Science  15 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6040, pp. 299-300
DOI: 10.1126/science.1209459

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Summary

Scholars have long debated the benefits of preschool, or prekindergarten, education. Several small-scale studies have documented that preschool contributes to better educational, occupational, and social outcomes for disadvantaged children over the long term (1) and is cost-effective (2). Large-scale, long-term studies, however, are unusual. On page 360 of this issue, Reynolds et al. (3) help fill that void. They report on a 25-year-long study, involving nearly 1400 former students, that examines the effect of the Child-Parent Center Education Program, a publicly funded preschool program in Chicago, Illinois, on subsequent educational achievement, socioeconomic status, health, and crime. Their results demonstrate consistent and enduring benefits for children who began preschool at age 3 or 4 (compared with children who began kindergarten when older), and especially for males and children of high-school dropouts. In particular, by age 28, the former preschool students had higher educational levels, incomes, socioeconomic status, and rates of health insurance coverage—and lower rates of substance abuse and legal problems—than the kindergarten students.