Early-childhood program pays for itself, study finds

A new longitudinal study shows the effectiveness of intense early education intervention in our schools.


“More than 20 years later, educational attainment is higher and felony arrests are lower for the alumni of a Chicago early-intervention program for low-income children.

The enrollees, who are now in their late 20s, are also less likely to describe themselves as depressed and more likely to have health insurance, according to a follow-up study released this week.

According to co-author Arthur J. Reynolds, a child-development professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the gains in terms of reduced social-welfare costs already have far exceeded the program’s $5,000 per student-year cost to the Chicago public school system.

“By the time they’re 65, a conservative estimate would be a 10-to-1 gain,” Reynolds said, considering reduced societal costs for remedial education, health care, incarceration and underemployment.”
“These results have profound and encouraging implications for our ability to close the achievement gap” among disadvantaged children, said Gordon Berlin, the president of MDRC, a New York nonprofit agency that identifies social policy strategies that work.
“This study begins to answer the question of whether a high-quality intervention could fortify Head Start and other early-childhood interventions, and power bigger results.”

Robert Godfrey

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