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The Fade Out Myth

Forty-seven states have a state-funded preschool program.  South Dakota is one of three states that does not have a state-funded, voluntary preschool program.  What do those states know that we don’t?

There are those who claim that gains made by children from low-income families enrolled in a quality preschool program diminish or “fade out” over time.  However, the preponderance of research shows that high-quality early childhood education can produce gains for disadvantaged children and deliver better outcomes for society.

Early childhood programs which began in the 1960s and 1970s (the Perry Preschool Program in Michigan, the Abecedarian Project in North Carolina, and the Child-Parent Center in Chicago) have established that a quality preschool experience can provide a lasting impact on the lives of children, both in the short term and for the rest of their lives.

When compared to their peers, children who participated in these programs scored higher on standardized tests, were less likely to be placed in special education classes, or held back a grade.  Conversely, they were much more likely to graduate from high school.

These academic outcomes tell only part of the story.   The longitudinal studies followed participants into adulthood.  Findings from these studies show there was no fade out in terms of life outcomes.  Former participants made better health choices as evidenced by reductions in smoking and lowered risk for heart disease and diabetes.  They also experienced fewer teen pregnancies and waited longer to get married.

These participants had more stable marriages and higher monthly incomes than their peers who did not participate.  Children who were enrolled in quality preschool programs went on to become contributing, taxpaying members of our society.  The success of these programs cannot simply be measured by IQ or academic achievements, but by gains in employment, health, and other life achievements.

South Dakota needs a state-funded, voluntary, preschool program. The well-being of our state depends upon the well-being of our neediest, most vulnerable children.  We all know that our children are our future, they should be our priority.  

I strongly encourage you to contact your state senator and representatives.  Tell them to make a quality preschool program a priority.  Our state and our children depend on it.

Tom Holmes

Former educator

Former state legislator

Early Learner South Dakota Stakeholder