All kids should have a strong start in life, including being safe, healthy, and on a path to succeed in school. A proven way to help children get this strong start in life and succeed in school is high quality pre-kindergarten. Research from across the country shows that quality pre-k is a highly effective public investment.
The Perry Preschool, Abecedarian Preschool Project, and Chicago Child Parent Center programs – considered the gold standard in pre-k quality – produced academic benefits, health improvements, reductions in crime, and improved economic outcomes such as higher earnings and reduced need for public benefits. For example, Perry Preschool students had an almost 20 percent higher high school graduation rate and children in the Abecedarian Preschool Program were four times more likely to graduate college than students in the control group. Children who attended the Chicago Child Parent Center pre-k program were 20 percent less likely to be arrested for a felony or incarcerated as young adults than similar children who did not attend the program. These returns on investment have attracted support for high quality pre-k among Federal Reserve leaders, corporate CEOs, economists such as Nobel Prize winner James J. Heckman, law enforcement and military leaders, and bipartisan policymakers in Texas and across the country, among others.
Fortunately, as the number of children served through state pre-k programs has increased, so has the breadth of evidence of program effectiveness. There is now a growing collection of studies evaluating pre-k programs in several states. These studies support the overall conclusion that effective pre-k programs can improve academic and social-emotional outcomes for students in both the short and long term. As a result, they can also save taxpayer dollars through reduced spending on special education and grade retention.