Participation in Michigan Pre-Kindergarten Leads to Long-Term Benefits

Jun 14, 2012

By Emily Firgens

Children who participate in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs are more likely to graduate from high school on time and are less likely to be held back a grade. These are the findings of HighScope Educational Research Foundation's most recent report, which analyzes the outcomes of children who participated in Michigan's state-funded preschool program, Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), versus those who did not participate. GSRP currently provides pre-kindergarten to around 30,000 children who are identified as poor or at-risk.  Importantly, this study makes clear the long-term benefits of a publicly funded state pre-kindergarten program.

The HighScope longitudinal study followed a cohort of 338 Michigan children in GSRP from 1995 through 2011. A group of 258 children from similar backgrounds in Michigan who did not attend GSRP were then used for comparison with the GSRP participants. Studies analyzed the educational outcomes of these two groups of children through elementary, middle, and high school. This most recent report looks at high school graduation and grade retention.

Students who participated in GSRP graduated on time at rates higher than those who did not participate, 57 percent compared with 43 percent. Fifty-nine percent of minority students who participated in pre-kindergarten graduated on time compared to just 37 percent of minority students who did not participate in pre-kindergarten.  By grade 12, 37 percent of GSRP students were held back a grade compared to 49 percent of non-GSRP students, while the percent of all students Michigan retained was 35 percent. Michigan also saved money through the reduction in grade retentions; 43.5 percent of the cost of GSRP was recovered by not having to pay for more students to repeat a grade.

While Michigan's GSRP study shows the tremendous benefits of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs, state investments in pre-kindergarten and early education remain small and are continually threatened. In 2011, state investments in pre-kindergarten decreased, and over the past nine years state investments in pre-kindergarten have fallen over $700 per child.

High-quality pre-kindergarten programs are a crucial component of comprehensive early education systems, supporting children's academic, social, and emotional development. Research continues to reinforce the benefits both children and society derive from early childhood education programs. To see these benefits, though, states must be willing to make the investments that allow for all children to participate in and benefit from early education programs.

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