New Study: Quality Pre-K Boosts High School Graduation Rates

Nov 23, 2017

A new study shows that kids who participate in high-quality pre-kindergarten are 11 percent more likely to graduate from high school.
Credit Jess Clark / WUNC

A recent analysis of five decades of data shows that high-quality early childhood education has lasting benefits for kids. Yet in North Carolina, less than one out of two young children participates in a qualifying program.

The study was published in the journal Educational Researcher. It showed that kids who attended a high-quality preschool program were 11 percent more likely to graduate high school. They were also 8 percent less likely to be held back or placed in special education.

According to the study's authors, these results provide further evidence for expanding access to high-quality preschool. In a news release about the research, they wrote that effective early childhood education supports a child's cognitive development, but also his or her social and emotional growth.

“Devoting resources to these types of high-quality early education programs that can prevent negative outcomes is not only important for supporting individual children’s well-being but also makes financial sense,” said coauthor Dana McCoy, who is an assistant professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.

About 27,000 kids are currently enrolled in North Carolina's Pre-K program, for military and low-income families. But another 4,000 are on the program's waitlist.

State legislators have set aside nearly $30 million dollars to add 3,000 more slots over the next two years, with the goal of reducing the wait list by 75 percent.