The use of an educational intervention that offers school-based enrichment and services for the family between preschool and third grade can promote postsecondary achievement by age 35, according to findings published in JAMA Pediatrics.
“Low educational attainment — eg, high school credential or less — is a major risk factor for all seven health metrics of the American Heart Association, including hypertension, smoking and obesity; economic disparities; criminal behavior; and mental health problems,” Arthur J. Reynolds, PhD, from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues wrote.
“… Early childhood interventions are one of the most promising and consequential of all prevention programs, but few, if any, studies have examined the entire spectrum of education from high school dropout to postsecondary success, primarily because of the lack of follow-up beyond 25 years of age, when continuing education is prevalent,” the researchers continued.
To observe the connection between an educational intervention provided between preschool and third grade and academic achievement at midlife, as well as the variances in the effects of the program by sex, duration and parental education level, the researchers conducted a matched-group, alternative intervention study. Participants included 1,539 low-income minority children. All were born between 1979 and 1980 in Chicago.
The participants involved in the Child-Parent Center Program were compared with a comparison group, which included 550 children who were randomly selected from schools that used a standard early intervention.
Of the children included in the Chicago Longitudinal Study, 989 began preschool in 1983 or 1984 and later completed kindergarten in 1986. A follow-up was conducted for 27 to 30 years after they had received an educational intervention. Data were analyzed for 1,398 (90.8%) children from the original sample who had educational achievement records available at 35 years of age.
Reynolds and colleagues specifically analyzed administrative records and self-reports on dropouts, graduation from 4-year high school, total years of education received, postsecondary credential and higher education completed, including all degrees from associate’s to master’s and higher.
Of the participants included in the study (mean age, 35.1 years), 92.9% were black and 7.1% were Hispanic. Those who attended preschool were more likely to obtain a postsecondary degree (associate’s degree or higher: 15.7% vs. 10.7%; difference, 5.0%; 95% CI, 1.0%-9.0%; master’s degree: 4.2% vs. 1.5%; difference, 2.7%; 95% CI, 1.3%-4.1%). Additionally, children who received a preschool education were more likely to have more years of education (12.81 vs. 12.32; difference, 0.49%; 95% CI, 0.20-0.77).
When compared with children who had fewer years of education, children who attended preschool through second or third grade were more likely to attain an associate’s degree (18.5% vs. 12.5%; difference, 6.0%; 95% CI, 1.0%-11.0%), bachelor’s degree (14.3% vs. 8.2%; difference, 3.6%; 95% CI, 1.3%-10.9%) or master’s degree or higher (5.9% vs. 2.3%; difference, 3.6%; 95% CI, 1.4%-5.9%) later in life.
Males who participated in this intervention were more likely to graduate high school, and females were more favored to complete college. Furthermore, children from households that had a lower education level were more likely to benefit from the intervention.
“The program had compensatory effects for those at elevated risk: black male participants and children of school dropouts,” Reynolds and colleagues wrote. “Although the results varied by duration of intervention, they indicate that prevention can be particularly effective in increasing educational attainment for those with the largest disparities in outcomes.”
“For example, the preschool group from low-education households had a twofold increase in bachelor’s degree attainment compared with the comparison group,” the researchers continued. “This result dovetails with previous findings and supports the [intervention] in enhancing quality, intensity and continuity of learning.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.