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Report: The Power of Preschool for Illinois

September 10, 2008

Chicago, IL – Preschool works in raising the test scores of Illinois students in their later school years, and in reducing the rate of students repeating grades; these benefits reach across the nation. That's the conclusion of a report released today by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Study author Steve Barnett is the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He says the benefits of high-quality preschool go beyond test scores and grades.

"Good preschool education can produce lasting benefits for your child in terms of social and emotional development, cognitive development, and school success."

Barnett reviewed current research on preschool because it's become a presidential campaign topic, with proposals ranging from giving grants to states to set up publicly-funded preschool, to providing information and databases to help parents choose a preschool. While some critics of preschool say parents should be the main teachers of kids below school age, Barnett says preschool is not "either-or:" it is in partnership with parents.

He says that, although all kids see benefits in well-designed preschool programs, those who get the biggest boost come from low-to-middle-income families. And he says those families can rarely afford the best preschools.

"It does matter what the quality of the program is. Proposals for public funds to help parents afford quality programs turns out to be so important."

The full report can be reviewed on line at www.greatlakescenter.org.

Deborah Smith/Steve Powers, Public News Service - IL