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Study: Michigan Pre-K Program Helps Promote On-Time Graduation

Four-year-olds who participate in Michigan's preschool program have a better chance of graduating from high school on time than those who don't attend, according to a study commissioned by the state's department of education.

The recent study, conducted by the nonprofit HighScope Educational Research Foundation in Ypsilanti, found that 58 percent of children who participated in the Great Start Readiness Program graduated from high school on time, compared with 43 percent of kids with similar demographic backgrounds who didn't attend state-funded preschool.

The difference was more pronounced between minority kids, with 60 percent of those who attended state preschool programs graduating on time compared with 37 percent for those who didn't. Researchers attributed the difference to the fact that fewer of the preschool kids ended up repeating a grade by 12th grade than did kids who hadn't participated in Great Start.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, 35 percent of all of the state's students repeat a grade at least once.

The study examined the academic outcomes for 595 children, including 338 who were enrolled in the Great Start program during the 1995-96 school year and 258 of the same age and background who didn't attend. All of the kids were then tracked through high school.

"These finding show the direct link of early childhood education with educational success for kids and their schools," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said in a press release. "Local school districts would be helping themselves by redirecting some of their existing fund to pre-K programs."

Michigan's program, which began in 1985, is currently funded to serve nearly 31,000 kids, which is about 68 percent of the 4-year-olds across the state living in deep poverty. Living in a low-income household is among the list of risk factors that qualify children for the program, according to the study.

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