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Early Education Is a Game Changer: New Report Shows That Reaching Infants and Toddlers Reduces Special Education Placement, Leads to Soaring Graduation Rates


November 17, 2017
Kevin Mahnken
The 74

Access to early-childhood education significantly reduces students’ chances of being placed in special education or held back in school and increases their prospects of graduating high school, according to new researchpublished by the American Educational Research Association. The report synthesizes evidence of the lasting, long-term benefits of high-quality preschool programs, which have often been dismissed as transient.

Authors from Harvard, New York University, the University of California, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin contributed to the brief, a meta-analysis of 22 experimental early-childhood-education studies conducted between 1960 and 2016. Although previous research reviews had focused on programs targeting 3- and 4-year-olds, the AERA brief examined services offered to children between birth and age 5.

The results were impressive: The programs reduced subsequent special education placement for participating students by 8.1 percentage points, reduced the chances of being held back by 8.3 percentage points, and boosted high school graduation by 11.4 percentage points. Though high-quality preschool is generally thought to accelerate cognitive and language development in the near term, the researchers conclude that its effects can be detected as late as high school.