LANSING – Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) for 4-year-olds helps students avoid repeating grades and graduate from high school on time, according to an independent study. The findings were presented to the State Board of Education last week by the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Great Start.
“This study further validates that quality early childhood education programs like the Great Start Readiness Program are good investments of public resources and should be continued and strengthened,” said Susan Broman, Director of the Office of Great Start.
The study, conducted for the Department of Education by the HighScope Educational Research Foundation, is based on a sample of 338 students who attended the program in 1995-1996 and 258 students of the same age and background who did not attend the program. Thirteen years later, 57 percent of the group that attend the preschool program graduated from high school, while only 43 percent of the group that did not attend the program did so.
This difference was even greater for students of color: 59 percent of those who attended the preschool program graduated on time as compared to only 37 of students of those who did not get the preschool program.
These graduation rate differences were largely due to the preschool program’s effect on grade retention, according to the study. By 12th grade, only 37 percent of those who attended the preschool program had repeated a grade while 49 percent of those who did not attend the preschool program did so. The percent of all the state’s students who ever repeat a grade is 35 percent.
An estimated 44 percent of the cost of the preschool program was recouped from the savings from reduced grade retention, the study reported.
Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program is funded to serve 30,668 children this school year, at a cost to the state of $103,375,000. The number served is equivalent to 68 percent of the 45,000 four-year-olds in the state living in homes under 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Low family income is one of various selection criteria used to determine eligibility for the preschool program.
For more than 12 years, from kindergarten to 12th grade, various aspects of the GSRP program have been evaluated by comparing the group of 1995-1996 GSRP participants to a group of matched no-GSRP students.
The results of the current study provide strong evidence of a significant relationship between GSRP attendance and participants’ lower grade retention rates and high school graduation, according Broman.
“The fact that almost half of the students who did not attend the preschool program repeated one or more grades means that grade retention is a persistent problem in Michigan’s schools,” Broman said.
Source: News release from Michigan Department of Education