Impacts of Early Childhood on Special Education Placements

Posted by American Educational Research Association on March 2, 2015

More quality preschool equals less SPED

A new study published in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis finds that access to state-supported early childhood programs significantly reduces likelihood that children will be placed in special education in the third grade, academically benefiting students and resulting in considerable cost savings to districts. The findings indicate direct benefits not only to participating students but also to other third graders through positive spillover effects. The study examined how investments in two high-quality early childhood initiatives in North Carolina — a preschool for four-year-olds from at-risk families and a program that provides child, family, and health services for children from birth through age five — affected likelihood that children would be placed in special education by the end of third grade from 1995 to 2010. The authors found an investment of $1,110 per child in the More at Four preschool program reduced likelihood of third-grade special education placements by 32 percent. An investment of the same amount in the Smart Start early childhood initiative reduced likelihood by 10 percent. Both programs together reduced likelihood of third-grade special education placement by 39 percent, resulting in significant cost savings for the state. Nationwide, special education costs nearly twice as much as regular classroom education. In addition to cost implications, the findings have implications for children’s educational careers and future lives.

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