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Study: Preschool Kids Less Likely to Grow Up as Criminals

June 10, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y. - New York advocates of early childhood education are hailing a new study showing reduction in felony arrests and jailings among adults who attended a preschool program, when compared with adults who did not.

The study, published in the journal Science, is one of the largest and longest of its kind, tracking youths from age 3 to 28 - about 1,000 who attended a Chicago preschool program and about 500 who did not. Those left out were 27 percent more likely to have been arrested for a felony by age 28 and were 39 percent more likely to have spent time in jail, according to study author Arthur Reynolds.

"So you add up all the evidence from our study and other studies, and you've got really the strongest research science for the benefits of early education."

Experts such as New York's Meredith Wiley, New York state director of the group Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, welcome the new findings but point out that the results are a product of a top-quality pre-kindergarten program - and not all such programs are. Her group is pushing for the implementation of a ratings program statewide.

Wiley believes high-quality early care and education programs can improve public safety and save taxpayers millions of dollars in corrections costs.

"This report is clear evidence of the wisdom of us adopting the QUALITYstarsNY quality-rating system that we've all been working to get implemented, so that we are sure that programs across the state are of high quality."

The study found that those who attended Chicago's Child-Parent Center program were 21 percent more likely to graduate from high school on time, and 31 percent were more likely to have attended a four-year college. Reynolds, co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative and a professor of child development, says the length of the study is unprecedented.

"We've never done a study like this before, so this is the first look at age 28."

Wiley welcomes the new research.

"The evidence just keeps mounting that these programs really make a huge, lifelong difference to these kids."

States are spending 10 times as much on corrections costs as on pre-K programs, according to early-education advocates who are urging Congress not to cut these programs and to make sure they are included as a key part of new federal education reform.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY