There’s yet more evidence of the long-term benefits of high-quality early education, this time from Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program, a state-funded pre-kindergarten program for children at risk of school failure founded in 1985 as a limited pilot. It now serves about 30,000 children.
Researchers from the HighScope Educational Research Foundation have been following 338 children who attended Great Start (GSRP) in 1995-6 and a control group of 258 children from similar demographic backgrounds. The children have now graduated from high school, thus yielding valuable longitudinal data, which HighScope recently presented to Michigan’s board of education.
The findings include:
- Kindergarten teachers consistently rated GSRP graduates as more advanced in imagination and creativity, demonstrating initiative, retaining learning, completing assignments and as having good attendance.
- Second grade teachers rated GSRP graduates higher on being ready to learn, able to retain learning, maintaining good attendance and having an interest in school.
- A higher percentage of 4th grade GSRP graduates passed the MEAP [Michigan Educational Assessment Program] compared to non-GSRP students.
- Significantly fewer GSRP participants were retained in grade than non-GSRP students between 2nd and 12th grades (36.5% versus 49.2% in 12th grade).
- Significantly fewer GSRP children of color were retained for two or more grades than their non-GSRP counterparts by the 12th grade (14.3% versus 28.1% in 12th grade).
- More GSRP students graduated on time from high school than non-GSRP participants (58.3% versus 43.0%).
- More GSRP children of color graduated on time from high school than non-GSRP participants (59.7% vs. 36.5%).
Researchers also estimated that 43.5% of Great Start’s cost was recouped through savings from the reduction in grade retention.
“This simple calculation does not quantify additional savings from reducing school failure and delayed high school graduation, as well as their lifetime effects on earnings and employment and crime reduction,” the report states. “This return could be increased by better targeting of children and better funding per child leading to higher-quality programming.”