Universal pre-kindergarten a windfall for all, UB expert says

Release Date: February 14, 2013

It’s a no brainer to provide high quality preschool services. It saves money in the long run and helps people lead more productive lives. It’s the right thing to do, regardless of your political leanings.
Kelly Roy, director, UB Early Childhood Research Center

BUFFALO, N.Y. – President Obama’s passionate proposal to make pre-kindergarten a universal experience for all growing up in America is a “no-brainer” great idea, capable of cultivating better students and more balanced, happier people, says the director of the University at Buffalo’s Early Childhood Research Center.

“From my perspective there isn’t much to analyze,” says Kelly Roy of UB’s on-site early childcare facility. “Given the 40-plus years of research on high quality preschool and the consistent and positive results, it’s a no brainer to provide high quality preschool services.

“It saves money in the long run and helps people lead more productive lives,” Roy says. “It’s the right thing to do, regardless of your political leanings.”

Roy says New York serves its 4-year-olds relatively well. In 2011, 45 percent of the 4-year-olds in New York receive pre-kindergarten training.

“Our numbers in Western New York are higher,” says Roy, who said there is no income requirement for children to participate in pre-kindergarten classes in New York.

Roy cited numerous long-term studies – including the Perry Preschool beginning in the early ’60s – that have found individuals and society benefit from children attending quality preschool as early as possible.

The long-term benefits, according to Roy, include increased educational success measured through increased achievement and attainment; decreased special education and grade repetition; decreased behavioral difficulties, depression, drug use or involvement in crime; as well as increased earnings and employment success.

“These individual benefits result in savings to society in costs associated with crime and punishment, health care costs and social service costs associated with dependence on government support,” she says.

Short-term benefits include increased cognitive skills, she says. “Kids are learning positive things and they enjoy it,” she says.

Social and emotional skills also develop well in a high quality program.

“Children learn how to regulate their own behavior to learn well in a group,” Roy says. “Elements of a high quality program include teachers who are well-educated and paid fairly. They plan well to meet the children’s needs and then reflect on their work to continuously improve the children’s learning.”

Any pre-kindergarten class will not do, she says. The size and ratio of teachers to children should be adequate to meet the needs of the class and allow the teacher to do his or her job well. There also needs to be a policy foundation within which a preschool operates that supports its success for it to be high quality, according to Roy. This includes high standards, adequate funding and continued evaluation for improvement.

Roy is available for interviews by contacting her at UB’s Early Childhood Research Center on the UB North Campus at 716-645-2379 or by email at kellykan@buffalo.edu. Or contact her through Charles Anzalone, Office of Communications, at 716-645-4600.

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