Lessons Learned About the Benefits of Preschool

(By Julie Zhu)
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dear Extra Credit:

Christian N. Braunlich and you ["Questioning the Benefits of Preschool for the Middle Class," Oct. 23] missed the mark in your comments on the effects of a high-quality early-childhood education. First, a number of studies replicated the very positive results of the Perry Preschool Project, which has continued to show concrete and positive results 40 years later for low-income children who had high-quality preschool and home visits for one year vs. those who did not.

For instance, the Abecedarian Project in North Carolina and the Chicago Parent-Child Centers Study, both involving much larger numbers of children than the Perry study did, found persistent academic as well as other gains from high-quality early care and education. Although the positive effects of high-quality early care and education are attenuated for middle-class children, they are still significant, especially in the parts of life other than school.

These social effects of the emphasis on the development of social and emotional skills in high-quality early-childhood environments apply across the board. They eventually save the taxpayers enormous amounts of money through higher income tax revenue, lower remedial education and social services costs and savings in criminal justice costs.

The negative effects of child care on aggressive behavior cited by Mr. Braunlich come from lower-quality programs that unfortunately are all too prevalent, and do not apply to National Association for the Education of Young Children-accredited child-care programs or preschools taught by teachers with college degrees in early childhood education, who know that young children grow best through child-initiated, responsive and reflective teaching.

John Surr


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