Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Study: Early-childhood program pays for itself

August 8, 2007

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— 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 and incarceration.

The findings, which appear in this month's issue of the Archive of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Medical Association, are the first to affirm the long-term value of a large public early-childhood enrichment program.

Chicago's Child-Parent Center program was - and is - more intense than Head Start, the main federal assistance program for low-income children and their families.

Since 1967, Child-Parent Centers in neighborhood schools have provided comprehensive education, health, job and family services throughout the school year for kids and their parents. Most children begin the program at age 3 or 4, and can receive help until they're in the second or third grade. Its teachers have four-year college degrees and special training in early childhood education.

The cost was about $2,000 more per pupil, according to Reynolds, than the full-time regular kindergarten and Head Start programs that a comparable sample of kids attended. All lived in the poorest school district on Chicago's West Side.

The survey of 1,539 Child-Parent Center alumni found them to be doing better in these ways:

¢ High school completion: 71 percent, versus 62 percent for nonparticipants.

¢ Felony arrests: 17 percent, versus 21 percent.

¢ Incarceration: 21 percent, versus 26 percent.

¢ Full-time employment: 43 percent, versus 36 percent.

Comments

Confrontation 10 years, 1 month ago

This program sounds like it's well worth it. These programs are even more important now, as educational initiatives lose funding that is being funneled to Iraq.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 1 month ago

What about parental involvement? Was that part of the government's taxpayer-funded plan?

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