A Worthy Investment Improving Early Childhood Education Pays Dividends Down the Road

By Cestello, Louis R. | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), April 13, 2017 | Go to article overview

A Worthy Investment Improving Early Childhood Education Pays Dividends Down the Road


Cestello, Louis R., Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


The quality of an early education can influence a young child's success in school and life.

As an individual highly invested in early childhood education, I have witnessed the impact an instructionally rich learning environment can have on preschool students' development. Research supports the view that high-quality preschool programs necessitate resources and educational experiences that stimulate children's curiosity and love of learning. A high-quality pre-K classroom - where teachers have access to materials and activities to support their interactions with children - helps to advance students' cognitive, social and emotional skills.

The early learning environment is especially relevant for at-risk preschool children. At home, many underserved children do not engage in the interactions - conversations and play - that help build vocabulary and the pathways that shape the brain's ability to organize information. A Stanford University study showed income-based disparities in children's vocabularies by 18 months of age. By 2 years, children from lower-income households fell six months behind children in higher-income homes with regard to how quickly they process language.

Though they face great odds to succeed, at-risk pre-K children are more likely to do well when they have access to quality resources. Recent research co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman shows that investing in quality early childhood programs can deliver a 13 percent per year return on investment - a net, long-term benefit of more than $700,000 for every disadvantaged child served. That benefit comes via reduced need for special education and grade repetition, higher wages, increased high school graduation rates and even reduced crime.

When classrooms have the resources they need, teachers are better equipped to inspire a lifelong love of learning. However, funding is always limited, and teachers across the country are reaching into their own pockets to purchase education materials that cash-strapped schools can't provide. …

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