Another study shows preK pays off, this time in Kalamazoo

Jun 20, 2013

Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

  Extra! Extra! High-quality preschool makes a difference. Actually, that's hardly breaking news. Study after study after study that has shown the benefits of high-quality preK, particularly for disadvantaged students. 

And now there's a new study to add to the pile, "Effects of the Pre-K Program of Kalamazoo County Ready 4s on Kindergarten Entry Test Scores: Estimates Based on Data from the Fall of 2011 and the Fall of 2012."

The study was conducted by Tim Bartik from the W.E. Upjohn Institute. The Kalamazoo County Ready 4s program aims to provide universal high-quality preK for all area four year olds. The nonprofit still has a long way to go to achieve that goal - roughly 1,000 more preschool slots are needed to accommodate all eligible four-year olds. Although the cohort of kids included in the test is pretty small (170 students), the results are still impressive. Here's an excerpt:

The effects are large compared to how much test scores typically vary across kindergartners, compared to other preschool programs, or compared to what students ordinarily learn in the year before kindergarten. The test score effects are also large enough that we would predict important percentage increases in participants’ future earnings. Estimated effects on vocabulary, literacy, and math skills average out to more than a 50 percent improvement in what students typically learn during the prekindergarten year, and would be predicted to increase future earnings by at least 9 percent. On the other hand, I don’t find statistically significant effects of KC Ready 4s on improving child behavior, although these measures of child behavior may be more imprecise and biased. 

One thing to note about this study is that it includes both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students; most studies that look at the effects of high-quality preschool focus on children from low-income families.