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Our View: Preschool works

Updated: March 20, 2013 6:26AM

America is constantly on the hunt for new ways to fix ailing schools. With each new golden solution, hope stirs that the secret’s been found.

Young people will learn. They won’t drop out. They’ll become productive adults.

This is the way, we always hope, that we’ll break the cycle of poverty, that vicious cycle that can include dropping out of high school, low wages and even time in prison.

How about investing in something we already know makes a difference: Quality preschool? It works for every child, but especially significantly for the poorest kids.

Last week, in his State of the Union address, President Obama called for making “high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.” We can’t think of a single better idea.

Study after study shows that kids who go to high-quality preschool do much better in the long run. For at-risk children, there is no better social investment we can make. When it comes to helping at-risk children, quality preschool beats

The returns in terms of life outcomes for at-risk children who attend quality preschool beat any other social investment we can make, study after study has shown.

Kids who complete a good preschool program graduate high school in greater numbers, earn more as young adults and are less likely to go to jail. Other interventions — remedial education, job training, jail — are distant seconds, not even in the race.

Obama wants to use federal money to reach all low- and moderate-income 4 year olds and to create a partnership with states, which largely oversee government pre-school programs, to encourage them to reach all 4 year olds.

He also wants to reach younger children — a critical need — by expanding high-quality programs for infants and toddlers.

Conservatives already are dismissing this as another government entitlement, another attempt to throw money at programs that don’t work.

They are right to raise concerns about the uneven quality of preschool programs.

Just three in 10 4-year-old students are in what’s considered a good program, based on a review by the National Center for Education Statistics.

But Obama’s plan is to raise standards, hire better teachers, pay them more and demand a rigorous curriculum.

This is a chance to elevate preschool once and for all — to make it better and more accessible expand it and make it much better so that every 4-year-old child can go to a quality program, not just a lucky few.

We know what works. We know what does not.

Preschool works.

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