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Early Childhood Education - Yes, There are Short Term Returns

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I am a firm believer that quality early childhood programs are critical to closing achievement gaps and improving overall achievement. One of my recent posts focused on thinking about early childhood programs as an investment rather than an expense and pointed out that political and policy leaders sometimes have difficulty waiting for the long-term results. Now there is information for those folks who have a need for quicker gratification. A recent report by ReadyNation, " Savings Now, Savings Later: Smart Early Childhood Programs Pay Off Right Away and for the Long Term," documents some short-term returns on investments in early childhood education. For those leaders who struggle with waiting until a student graduates from college to see results, this report will help. (ReadyNation is a business partnership that amplifies the voice of business leaders in support of early childhood policies and programs proven to strengthen our economy and workforce.) I strongly urge you to share this report with your leaders to help them better understand these benefits. Some examples and excerpts from this outstanding report include:

"Quality home visiting/parent mentoring programs can reduce costs and improve outcomes now."

· High-quality mentoring programs that support at-risk expectant and new parents can cut nearly in half the number of low-birth weight births, saving $28,000-$40,000 for each one averted.

· Home visiting programs help reduce child abuse and neglect by up to 80%, saving states some of the $33 billion in annual costs.

· Toddlers who participated in the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program had 32% fewer emergency room visits than their peers and 56% fewer visits for injuries and poisonings, allowing these programs to pay for themselves.

"Effective pre-kindergarten programs reduce costly grade retention, special education and other services right away."

· Programs have reduced developmental delays from 21% to 8%, cut in half the need for special education through grade two, reduced by 33% the students who had to repeat kindergarten and reduced abuse and neglect by 50%.

"Health programs can show a strong return for children, parents, schools and employers."

· Asthma prevention can reduce the number of missed work days for parents of at-risk children by up to 50% and school absenteeism by 41%.

· One study showed that providing basic health care education and tools for at risk families reduced emergency room visits by up to 58% and doctor visits by up to 40%, saving individual families an average of $447 per year. These efforts also reduced absenteeism by 28%.

"The benefits continue into early elementary school, including the critical third-grade benchmark year. Third-grade scores correlate strongly with high school graduation."

· Retentions and special education placement are significantly reduced, pass rates for math are up 16%, pass rates for reading are up 24%.

· There was a 51% increase in math proficiency and a 27% increase in language arts proficiency over peers who had not attended preschool in a Utah program.

As we continue to look at the data and research on early childhood programs there should be no doubt that these investments must take place now! What are we waiting for? Again, please share this report with policy leaders and ask them to fund high quality early childhood programs in your communities now.

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