ERIC Identifier: ED365478
Publication Date: 1994-01-00
Author: Schweinhart, Lawrence J.
Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Lasting Benefits of Preschool Programs. ERIC Digest.
More than other educational innovations, high-quality programs for young
children living in poverty have demonstrated the promise of lasting benefits and
return on investment. Various longitudinal studies have documented such
benefits. Some of these studies have been INTENSIVE, i.e., they used a strict
experimental design but studied fewer than 500 study participants at a single
site. Others have been EXTENSIVE, i.e., they used a less strict design but
studied more than 500 study participants at multiple sites or over several
years. Generally speaking, the results of intensive studies are clearly valid
for the subject group studied but are harder to generalize to a larger
population. The reverse is true for extensive studies. Both types of studies are
important to well-informed public policy development.
The programs examined in the longitudinal studies reported in this digest
served young children living in poverty who were at special risk of school
failure. Children entered the programs at some time before age five and remained
in them for at least one school year. The studies examined a variety of
high-quality early childhood programs that included either classes for children
or home visits to parents and children or both. Some of the studies lasted only
a few years, while others followed program participants into adulthood.
EFFECTS ON SCHOOL PERFORMANCE
All of the studies that
collected data on early childhood INTELLECTUAL PERFORMANCE found that their
program groups had significantly better intellectual performance than their
no-program groups during the program and for a year or two thereafter. A
comprehensive meta-analysis identified 50 Head Start studies that found evidence
of immediate improvements in children's intellectual and socioemotional
performance and health that lasted several years (McKey et al., 1985).
Some educators and others believe that, while preschool programs for children
in poverty have positive effects, these effects FADE AWAY over time. However,
clear evidence of the gradual disappearance of effects has been found only for
gains in children's scores on tests of their intellectual performance, and not
for other positive effects of programs.
Several studies, including those by Gray et al. (1982), Irvine (1982),
Levenstein et al. as reported in the Consortium for Longitudinal Studies (CLS)
(1983, p.237-263), and Schweinhart et al. (1993), found that significantly fewer
program participants than nonparticipants in a matched control group were EVER
PLACED IN SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSES. In three studies by Gotts (1989), Irvine
(1982), and Palmer as reported in the CLS (1983, p.201-236), significantly fewer
program participants than nonparticipants were
EVER RETAINED IN GRADE.
In several studies (Fuerst & Fuerst, 1993; Gotts, 1989; Schweinhart et al., 1993), the program group had a
significantly higher HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION RATE than the no-program group. When
these findings were examined by gender, it was found that girls who had
participated in the program had significantly higher graduation rates than girls
who had not participated, but that a similar difference between participants and
nonparticipants was not evident for boys. Nevertheless, in the one study with
relevant data for adults (Schweinhart et al., 1993), men who had been program
participants had significantly higher monthly earnings, higher rates of home
ownership, and fewer lifetime arrests than men who had not participated in the
EFFECTS ON COMMUNITY BEHAVIOR
One intensive study, the
High/Scope study as reported by Schweinhart et al. (1993), found evidence that
program participation had positive effects on adult crime, earnings, wealth,
welfare dependence, and commitment to marriage. For example, program group
members averaged significantly fewer CRIMINAL ARRESTS than the no-program
group!2.3 versus 4.6 arrests. Only 12% of men who had participated in the
program had been arrested five or more times, compared to 49% of men who had not
participated in the program. Only 7% of the program group had ever been arrested
for drug dealing, significantly fewer than the 25% of the no-program group. In
the High/Scope study and one other (Lally et al., 1988), program-group members
spent significantly less time on probation than did no-program group members.
The High/Scope study found that 29% of those who had participated in the
program reported MONTHLY EARNINGS AT AGE 27 of $2,000 or more, significantly
more than the 7% of nonparticipants who reported such earnings. For men, the
difference was due to better paying jobs: 42% of participants as compared to
only 6% of nonparticipants reported such monthly earnings. For women, the
difference was in employment rates: 80% of participants but only 55% of
nonparticipants were employed at the time of the age-27 interview. Significantly
more of the program group than the no-program group OWNED THEIR OWN HOMES (36%
versus 13%) and OWNED SECOND CARS (30% versus 13%). Significantly fewer program
group members than no-program group members RECEIVED WELFARE ASSISTANCE or other
social services as adults (59% versus 80%). The study found that 40% of women
who had participated in the program, but only 8% of those who had not, were
MARRIED AT AGE 27; while 57% of the births to program females were
OUT-OF-WEDLOCK, 83% of the births to no-program females were out-of-wedlock.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
The 1993 Schweinhart et al. study also
involved a systematic analysis of the costs and benefits of the preschool
program and its effects, expressed in constant 1992 dollars discounted annually
at 3%. The program returned to taxpayers $88,433 per participant from the
savings in schooling, due primarily to reduced need for special education
services, and despite increased college costs for preschool-program
higher taxes paid by preschool-program participants because they had higher
savings in welfare assistance; and
savings to the criminal justice system and to potential victims of crimes.
With most participants attending the program for two school years, the
average cost of the program was $12,356 per participant. Thus, the program
provided taxpayers a RETURN ON INVESTMENT of $7.16 on the dollar, better than
most other public and private investments. The program cost $7,252 per child per
year, primarily because it provided one teacher for every five children. It
probably would have had the same effects if it had had one teacher for every
eight children and would then have cost $5,000 per child per year. Spending less
than that, however, would have jeopardized the program's effectiveness and
return on investment.
ONLY HIGH-QUALITY PROGRAMS HAVE LASTING EFFECTS
studies suggest that high-quality programs for young children produce
significant long-term benefits because they empower young children, parents, and
High-quality programs EMPOWER YOUNG CHILDREN by encouraging them to initiate
their own learning activities. The idea that young children initiate their own
learning activities rather than act as mere passive recipients of information
from others is central to developmentally appropriate practice for young
children. Such active learning encourages children to solve their everyday
intellectual, social, and physical problems and to assume a measure of control
over their environment.
Such programs EMPOWER PARENTS by involving them as partners with teachers in
supporting their children's development. Most of the preschool programs found to
have long-term benefits included weekly home visits or emphasized parent
involvement in other ways. The programs strengthened parents' ability to view
their children as able, active learners and to support their children's
development of a sense of control and of intellectual, social, and physical
Such programs EMPOWER TEACHERS by providing them with inservice curriculum
training and supportive curriculum supervision, which help them engage in
practices that support children and parents. Such training is most successful in
promoting quality when agencies have supportive administrations and trained
curriculum specialists on staff who provide teachers with hands-on workshops,
observation and feedback, and follow-up sessions (Epstein, 1993).
Too often, our response to the intractable problems of poverty, crime, drug
abuse, unemployment, and welfare dependence is frustration and even despair.
Whatever we do, it seems these problems will not go away. Nor will high-quality
preschool programs make them go away entirely. But the evidence suggests that
providing such programs will significantly reduce the magnitude of these
problems; and that is reason enough to provide them.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Consortium for Longitudinal Studies.
(1983). AS THE TWIG IS BENT: LASTING EFFECTS OF PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS. Hillsdale,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. ED 253 299.
Epstein, A.S. (1993). TRAINING FOR QUALITY: IMPROVING EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS THROUGH SYSTEMATIC INSERVICE TRAINING. (Monographs of the
High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 9). Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.
PS 022 104.
Fuerst, J.S. and D. Fuerst. (1993). Chicago Experience with an Early
Childhood Program: The Special Case of the Child Parent Center Program. URBAN
EDUCATION 28(1, Apr): 69-96. EJ 463 446.
Gotts, E.E. (1989). HOPE, PRESCHOOL TO GRADUATION: CONTRIBUTIONS TO PARENTING AND SCHOOL-FAMILY RELATIONS THEORY AND PRACTICE. Charleston, WV: Appalachia Educational Laboratory. ED 305 146.
Gray, S.W., B.K. Ramsey, and R.A. Klaus. (1982). FROM 3 TO 20: THE EARLY
TRAINING PROJECT. Baltimore, MD: University Park Press.
Irvine, D.J. (1982). EVALUATION OF THE NEW YORK STATE EXPERIMENTAL
PREKINDERGARTEN PROGRAM. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American
Educational Research Association, New York, NY. ED 217 980.
Lally, J.R., P.L. Mangione, and A.S. Honig. (1988). The Syracuse University
Family Development Research Program: Long-Range Impact of an Early Intervention
with Low-Income Children and Their Families. In D.R. Powell (Ed.). PARENT
EDUCATION AS EARLY CHILDHOOD INTERVENTION: EMERGING DIRECTIONS IN THEORY, RESEARCH, AND PRACTICE. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
McKey, R.H., L. Condelli, H. Ganson, B.J. Barrett, C. McConkey, and M.C.
Plantz. (1985). THE IMPACT OF HEAD START ON CHILDREN, FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES.
Washington, DC: CSR.ED 263 984.
Schweinhart, L.J., H.V. Barnes, and D.P. Weikart. (1993). Significant
Benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through Age 27. (Monographs of
the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 10). Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope
Press. PS 021 998.