These days, if kids learn all they really need to know in kindergarten, it means they’re a year behind their preschool-educated peers. Fortunately for children in NYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio managed to secure $300 million in state funding to provide free prekindergarten citywide. Although the mayor’s pre-K proposal carried the day, the public education debates in New York echo nationwide controversy over which policies promise the best long-term outcomes. Sociologists wonder, who benefits most from programs like Head Start?
Though policy debates continue, the positive impacts of preschool have been known for a long time. These programs prevent learning difficulties, promote healthy development, and decrease the likelihood of incarceration for urban and low-income kids.
- Richard K. Caputo. 2003. “Head Start, Other Preschool Programs, & Life Success in a Youth Cohort.” Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 30(2): 105-22.
- Arthur J. Reynolds, Judy A. Temple, Dylan L. Robertson, and Emily A. Mann. 2001. “Long-term Effects of an Early Childhood Intervention on Educational Achievement and Juvenile Arrest: A 15-year Follow-up of Low-Income Children in Public Schools.” Jama, 285(18), 2339-2346.
- John R. Berrueta-Clement. 1984. “Changed Lives: The Effects of the Perry Preschool Program on Youths through Age 19. Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, Number Eight”. Monograph Series, High/Scope Foundation.
One caveat to this trend, though: a rapid expansion in pre-K access might also mean increased misdiagnoses of ADHD in young children.
- Steven Hinshaw and Richard M. Scheffler. 2014. The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance. New York: Oxford University Press.
For more on how children’s mental health labels change when institutions change, check out this recent TSP Reading List post on autism.