Early Education Could Reduce Special Education Enrollment, Cut Costs High-quality early childhood programs may significantly reduce the likelihood that a child will be placed in special education by the end of third grade, according to research published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. In the study, Clara G. Muschkin, Helen F. Ladd and Kenneth A. Dodge of Duke University ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   April 01, 2015
Early Education Could Reduce Special Education Enrollment, Cut Costs
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School-Based Settings / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   April 01, 2015
Early Education Could Reduce Special Education Enrollment, Cut Costs
The ASHA Leader, April 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.20042015.np
The ASHA Leader, April 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.20042015.np
High-quality early childhood programs may significantly reduce the likelihood that a child will be placed in special education by the end of third grade, according to research published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
In the study, Clara G. Muschkin, Helen F. Ladd and Kenneth A. Dodge of Duke University tracked 871,000 children born between 1988 and 2000 and found that two state-funded programs in North Carolina contributed to a considerable decline in children’s chances of special education enrollment.
“Our research finds that the effects of these initiatives for students are quite large and still paying off after students have completed almost four years of elementary school,” says Muschkin, the study’s lead author and associate director of Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy.
The two initiatives—More at Four (now NC Pre-K), a preschool program for 4-year-olds from at-risk families, and Smart Start, a program that provides child, family and health services for children from birth to age 5—were linked to a reduced likelihood of entering special education by the end of third grade by a combined 39 percent.
For More at Four, that likelihood was 32 percent lower, associated with fewer preventable disabilities, such as attention disorders, learning disabilities and mild developmental delays. For Smart Start, that likelihood was 10 percent lower, associated with lower rates of learning disability. The programs did not, however, show measurable success in decreasing instances of behavioral-emotional disabilities or other less malleable categories, such as physical disability and speech-language impairment.
Beyond academic benefits, the researchers note that more early childhood programs could cut overall state education expenses, given that special education costs almost twice as much as regular education nationwide.
And participants aren’t the only potential beneficiaries—students not signed up for the study experienced positive “spillover” from having more access to early childhood initiatives. And when those children enter elementary school, they “can still benefit from being in classes with more students who have had access to high-quality early childhood initiatives,” Muschkin said. “Access to high-quality early education contributes to more positive elementary school classroom environments, as well as to fewer subsequent placements in special education.”
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April 2015
Volume 20, Issue 4