Study: Quality Pre-K Reduces Crime, Drug Use

Study after study shows that investing in high quality early education is one of the best investments we can make in our children and communities.

The latest comes from a study posted online in the journal Science. Researchers following children in Chicago Public Schools found that those who attended preschool showed significant advantages in adulthood. From the Chicaco Tribune:

The report shows that children who attended an established preschool program in Chicago completed high school at higher rates, stayed out of jail, were less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and improved their living standards as adults.

For 25 years, researchers from the University of Minnesota tracked 1,400 Chicago Public Schools students who attended early childhood programs. They compared those who started preschool at age 3 in Child-Parent Centers, located in or near elementary schools serving low-income students, with those who didn’t attend preschool at all or went to the typical Head Start program.

The Child-Parent Centers ensure students have two years of preschool before kindergarten and then follow children through second and third grades. The program focuses on developing reading, writing and math skills, along with requiring parent participation in classrooms twice a month. A program like Head Start teaches preschoolers to recognize letters of the alphabet and build their vocabulary but also focuses heavily on providing socio-emotional development and health services to kids.

The research findings showed that students who went to preschool at Child-Parent Centers, the second-oldest federally funded early childhood program in the country, after Head Start, had a 28 percent lower incarceration rate than those who did not go to the centers. They also were 28 percent less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol later in life, and they had a 20 percent increase in their socioeconomic status. They also were 9 percent more likely to finish high school. That number jumped to 22 percent for males.

For kids who stayed in the program until second or third grade, the study showed a 55 percent increase in on-time high school graduations and a 36 percent reduction in students being arrested for violence. Many also achieved a better socioeconomic status with a higher rate of private health coverage.

Arkansas is regarded for its high quality preschool program, Arkansas Better Chance. But there aren’t enough slots in the program to reach all the children eligible for it. As many as 15,000 children who qualify each year don’t have access to a program.