Can attending preschool affect how your child will do in math when he is older? According to a recent study that appeared in the journal Science, the answer is yes.
In an article in The Wall Street Journal, Edward Melhuish, the leader of the study and a professor at Birkbeck, University of London said, "For a typical child with average ability, going to a high-quality preschool would improve their math scores by 27% relative to the rest of the class." (The high-quality preschool designation was based on the researchers' observations of classrooms.) The researchers found that in a good preschool, not only do children learn from educated teachers but from each other. "Children's ability to work independently improves significantly, and that's a high predictor of future academic success," said Melhuish in The Wall Street Journal.
The researchers also took into consideration what and how the children learned at home, asking parents about what types of activities they did including reading and playing games. Also contributing to the results of the study were the child's gender, and the parents' income, occupation and level of education.
The debate raging in the United States is whether or not preschool should be offered universally by the government. Studies like this make a strong case for universal pre-k, although detractors say that current research isn't conclusive enough and that the high cost of these programs outweighs any positive results.
According to pre[k]now, a public education and advocacy organization that advances high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three and four year olds, state-funded pre-k programs currently serve 22 percent of four year olds and 3 percent of three year olds. About 70 percent of those children are served in a school setting and the other 30 percent attend at for- and non-profit childcare centers, Head Start centers and faith-based providers. Right now, Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma are the only states that currently make pre-k available to all four year olds although the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, and West Virginia do have multi-year plans in the works to implement pre-k for all four year olds. (The District of Columbia and Illinois have plans that include three year olds as well.)
According to a report by pre[k]now, complied with data from the "The Economics of Investing in Universal Preschool Education in California", Rand Corporation; The High/Scope Perry Preschool Project, every $1 invested in high-quality pre-k saves taxpayers up to $7. This savings comes from reducing the need for remedial and special education, welfare and criminal justice services. Current estimates put the cost of quality preschool education to every 4-year-old in the United States from about $25 billion to $39 billion.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has promised to provide state grants for universal preschool and wants to increase federal spending on early education by about $10 billion. Advisers to Republican presidential candidate John McCain have said a child’s education begins at day one, and the schools and centers that support early learning must be nothing less than excellent, adding that McCain wants to focus on high-quality preschool for low-income students. As governor of Alaska, McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin has proposed increasing her state's investment in Head Start.
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