Recently, Governor Rick Snyder proposed a series of controversial education reforms, but nowhere in that legislation was one of the most popular and proven ways of improving public education – expanding pre-k.
The benefits of preschool have been well documented over the years, but in 2012, the findings of one of the longest running childcare studies were released. The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill study, known as the Abecedarian Project, started in 1972 and followed 111 children, half placed in quality pre-k programs, the other half given whatever care was provided by their families. The academic and professional success of the children was then tracked through age 30.
The study reveals that, throughout school, the group of children who attended preschool performed significantly better on reading and math tests. In an era when test scores are used – sometimes appropriately, sometimes inappropriately – to measure all forms of success, a quality preschool program becomes vital to both students and school districts.
More importantly than test scores, however, the UNC study shows that students who attend preschool are four times more likely to earn a college degree. Likewise, the study indicates that, when preschool students become adults, they are more likely to have consistent full time employment with a higher income than those students who do not attend preschool.
These advantages of preschool become starkly relevant given the current economic picture here in Michigan and throughout the country.
The Grosse Pointe Public School System serves the five Grosse Pointes and a portion of Harper Woods – six cities in all – yet has only one preschool. By contrast, there are nine elementary schools, even though, according to census data, there is roughly the same number of preschool aged children in the district as elementary school aged kids.
While the state has taken its eye off the ball and all but given up on the idea of universal pre-k, an idea that trained professional educators agree would drastically improve the quality of public education, we here in Grosse Pointe can take action by at least making it more convenient for parents to send their children to a Grosse Pointe Public preschool.
There is an effort to provide preschool at all GPPSS elementary schools, but it is time to significantly step up that effort. The children of our district cannot wait.