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Analysis: Benefits from good preschool programs could be big

December 28, 2017
Jeff Amy
The Clarion Ledger

It’s a soft sell — come and listen to renowned figures who have studied the benefits of educating very young children, and maybe people will leave charged up to support more and better preschool programs in Mississippi.

…But — and here’s the hitch — just any old preschool isn’t good enough.

Figures collected by Mississippi First show almost 75 percent of all 4-year-olds attend some kind of program outside the home, but the numbers are lower at younger ages. That high proportion is in part due to the heavy concentration of Head Start programs serving 4-year-olds and some 3-year-olds. But the benefits from federally funded Head Start, studied nationwide, appear patchy.

“Initial gains rapidly dissipated once children began formal schooling,” is how a Brookings Institute report put it over the summer. Mississippi’s much smaller Early Learning Collaboratives might be more promising, because they adhere to standards from the National Institute for Early Education Research. But the state-funded collaboratives are much smaller, with only 2,200 students statewide.