Study on Michigan early childhood efforts provides startling results

Children who attended a public pre-K school program had greater success throughout their K-12 career, including graduating at a higher rate, according to a first-of-its-kind study that followed more than 500 Michigan children for 14 years.

That study, to be discussed today at a meeting of the State Board of Education, provides fuel to growing calls for increased funding for early childhood education in the state.

Michigan’s public pre-K program, called Great Start Readiness Program, provides early childhood education to about 30,000 poor and at-risk children. The study followed 338 children from Detroit, St. Clair County, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Wyoming and Roscommon who attended Great Start as 4-year-olds in 1995-96, and 258 demographically similar children who qualified for Great Start, but didn’t attend any type of pre-school before entering kindergarten.

The results were startling.

Kindergarten teachers rated the Great Start students as demonstrating more creativity, initiative and ability to retain learning. When they reached second grade, the Great Start students were still out-performing their peers.

A higher percentage of Great Start graduates passed the MEAP in fourth grade.

Significantly fewer were held back a grade (36 percent to 49 percent in the control group).

And more pre-K participants graduated from high school on time than their peers who had no pre-K education (58 percent to 43 percent). For minorities, the graduation gap was even wider – 60 percent for pre-K participants to 36 percent for those with no formal early childhood education.

High quality early childhood programs continue to make a difference,” said Keith Myers, executive director of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children. “If we’re serious about becoming a business-friendly state, we need to put our funds at the front end.”

The state spent $104 million this year on the Great Start program, with the goal of offering early childhood education to low-income families who may not otherwise be able to afford it. The state would need to more than double that investment to reach all the children who qualify for the program.

“It’s a huge investment,” Myers said. “But all the research says it’s money well-spent. If you expect a payoff in the next quarter, you’re not going to see it. You have to be patient. You have to understand what these types of programs do for children.”

Another study conducted by the same organization, High Scope Educational Research Foundation in Ypsilanti, found that the impact of high-quality preschool was still being felt 40 years later, with participants earning more money than those who didn’t participate in pre-school.

The study presented today, conducted for Michigan Department of Education by High Scope, gives the state the first quantifiable proof of Great Start’s long-term impact on children, and makes a case that pre-K gives taxpayers a good return on investment.

The Great Start program currently costs about $3,400 per student served. Those students are less likely to be held back grades in school -- and each repeated year of school costs taxpayers $11,987, according to the study. The lowered grade retention levels pay 45 percent of the cost of the Great Start program, even before taking into account higher high school graduation rates and subsequent higher lifetime earnings.

At the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce's Mackinac Island Policy Conference in late May, 100 Michigan business leaders called for greater public funding of preschool, specifically for 38,000 children who qualify for the state program, but are not now getting the service.

Senior Writer Ron French joined Bridge in 2011 after having won more than 40 national and state journalism awards since he joined the Detroit News in 1995. French has a long track record of uncovering emerging issues and changing the public policy debate through his work. In 2006, he foretold the coming crisis in the auto industry in a special report detailing how worker health-care costs threatened to bankrupt General Motors.

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Tue, 06/12/2012 - 9:59am
Michigan's public preschool program for four year olds is called Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) not Great State [sic] or Great Start, as noted in this article. Great Start is our state-wide system of investment and advocacy which includes local and regional collaboratives, parent coalitions and the Great Start to Quality Resource Centers. These data confirm what we have known for years, namely that quality early childhood experiences prepare a child for success in school and life. The Traverse Bay/Manistee Great Start Collaborative commissioned an economic impact study for our region in 2010, and the results of that study reached this same conclusion--investing early pays big dividends for children and society, about $6 for every dollar invested in our region. I urge you to contact your local Great Start Collaborative for more information and to get involved. Our children need you.
Thu, 06/14/2012 - 10:08am
I have always believed these programs to be a good value for the taxpayer. My question is, "Why hasn't the Record-Eagle, Manistee News Advocate, Benzie Record-Patriot, or Northern Express printed stories on this program and it's positive outcomes?"
Rita Casey
Wed, 06/20/2012 - 11:12pm
I commend you for linking to the excellent Barnett & Ackermann study. It points out quite well the outstanding results that early childhood education can produce when certain high standards characterize the program, and that those positive results are particularly compelling for poor children (with middle class children also having benefits). In fact, their findings are quite consistent with the results reported by the HighScope group, cited in this issues article. Unfortunately, your statement appears to cast doubts about this latest study from the HighScope researchers, who do not deserve to have their ethics questioned. Their income was not and is not dependent on whether or not this cited program produced positive results.
Tue, 06/12/2012 - 12:44pm
advocates for increased pre K funding ignore one giant fact in their analysis--parents that value education already provide for a pre K experience. The positive "results" of pre K programs is likely baked in the cake already. These students are likely to have done much better than average already because their parents recognize the value of being educated. The probability that a larger program would have the same "results" would be dramatically reduced. An expanded program would be drawing upon families where parents are increasingly indifferent towards educational achievement--> translation: the cost of expansion is likely to exceed the benefits. Further, the entire pre K movement ignores the fact that children that enter formal schooling at older ages (6 year old Kindergardners) perform even better. The movement for increased pre k is likely a union grab.
Wed, 06/13/2012 - 7:17am
Lets play "Who said that?" "All human behaviors, from work force abilities to social skills build on capacities developed during childhood, beginning at birth. The early development of cognitive skills, emotional well-being, social competence, and robust physical and mental health is the foundation for school success. These abilities are the critical prerequisites for economic productivity and responsible citizenship throughout life. Michigan must change to support these realities. We know too much about the first five years of life to continue to invest as though learning begins at the kindergarten door rather than at birth. Government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and ECIC all have critical roles to play." Who said that? Well know "Union grabber" Rick Snyder on April 27, 2011 when he advocated for expansion of Great Start in his "Special Message on Education." Snyder rightly sees this as social AND economic issue. Brendan Walsh
Wed, 06/13/2012 - 9:18am
Snyder is also very aware he must pander to the MEA if he wants his legislature of conservatives to stay in office. I've been told by several representatives that slighting the MEA is a death sentence for their political career. There is no stronger political lobby in Michigan than the MEA and it has major influence in Lansing. The example set by Walker in Wisconsin will enbolden a lot of govenors to confront public sector unions but I don't think Snyder has the stomach for that or any other type of confrontation. I'm satisfied he deals with the tough issues in a non-hostle way but then he may have a different personality when he gets all the easy tasks out of the way. We'll see how supportive he is when he has to sign on for moving some of the fuel sales tax from education to maintaining the road system in Michigan.
Thu, 06/14/2012 - 10:23am
You're full of it Teabag Hardvark. The republican legislature has decimated schools and teachers already (ie-children and taxpayers) . Stop this "union threat" crap. What, may I ask, is so wrong and why do teabags hate it so much, when a person actually makes a living wage with benefits?? Why would you hate someone just because they want to attempt to live what is left of the American Dream? What's all this "cut my taxes" bunk when the only tax cuts are for those making over $1 million? You can not be that ignorant? Add to that, what is with the fear of "socialism", when fully a third of teabags are sucking up socialist security? You should reflect and stop being a sheep baaing for the billionaires.
Thu, 06/14/2012 - 10:14am
Are you kidding me Teabag?? Our small pre-K in our small town is non-union and the teachers earn a whopping $10.00/hr, part time. I know for teabag folks $10/hour is waaaayyy too much to be paying someone teaching our kids. Perhaps you should look into your leaders handing out 357 million in welfare to Hemlock semi-conductor (non-union) for a supposed 450 permanant jobs. So far they have hired about 60. Where are the teabags when thse corporate socialist welfare handouts are stolen from the taxpayers???
Wed, 06/13/2012 - 11:04am
What an amazing analysis. Snyder pandering to the MEA? Did he pander to the MEA when he signed the bill reforming teacher tenure? Did he pander to the MEA when he signed the bill not allowing their union dues to be deducted from the teacher's paychecks? To say that Snyder panders to the MEA is a ridiculous argument. The Legislative conservatives have done nothing to pander to the MEA. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
Wed, 06/13/2012 - 10:49pm
Lets see, does reforming teacher tenure effect any existing MEA members or does it just apply to new hires? Does the transfer of responsibility for collection of union dues adversely affect the teacher or just shift the administrative responsibility to where it should be? Are these really issues to the rank & file or just an irritation for the union hierarchy? The real issue will come over healthcare, opening up to competition and revising policy benefits to realistic coverage. The future will be very interesting to watch.
Chuck Jordan
Sat, 06/16/2012 - 9:18pm
Maybe if both parents didn't have to work all the time and didn't leave their kids in front of a tv or video screen when they are home, the situation might be different? Full time kindergarten and more pre-k are not better than parent involvement -- like reading with their kids. Of course some kind of teaching is better than none. I just think there is too much attention paid to academic skills -- passive learning -- and not enough playing and imagination.