Benefits of preschool clear, but quality is critical
- New research exploring the short- and long-term impact of preschool in North Carolina added to the body of work supporting early childhood education, but prior studies that have found the benefits to be short-lived prove quality matters.
- NPR reports the North Carolina study found preschoolers had higher test scores, fewer special education placements, and a reduced likelihood of being held back a grade, and those benefits were sustained across all race and income groups through fifth grade, the point where researchers stopped tracking them.
- Quality is key to seeing these long-term benefits, however, and experts say that means small class sizes, student-directed learning and time for unstructured play.
Kindergartners show up to school with such a wide range of existing math and literacy skill levels that it is nearly impossible for teachers to get everyone to the same place by the end of the year. That’s one reason why K-12 school districts are starting to look backward to better prepare future students. Some districts are partnering with local preschool and childcare providers while others are housing early learning programs in their own buildings.
New York City has been identified as a model for the country when it comes to universal pre-K. One challenge to standardizing high-quality early childhood is the cost, however. Studies show preschool teachers make significantly less than their colleagues who teach kindergarten, and states and localities that try to overcome that have to budget significant costs.
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