To the Editor:
Thank you for featuring Nobel laureate James J. Heckman’s recent work on the importance of investing in youths (“Beyond Pre-K,” Commentary, March 21, 2007).
I congratulate Mr. Heckman and his colleagues for examining the serious issue of youth development. Social scientists have studied the individual impact of interventions with young people, and it is terrific to see a leading economist taking this work to a new level by analyzing the cost-effectiveness and societal impact of youth programs.
Over the last 137 years, Erie Neighborhood House, in Chicago, has seen firsthand the positive effects of sustained investment in youths. In recent decades, thousands of low-income, disadvantaged children have started in our preschool program and continued to receive critical support through elementary, middle, and high school and beyond.
As a result, students in our college-prep program have consistently achieved a 100 percent high school graduation rate and a 97 percent college-placement rate, this in a community in which half the students at the local high school drop out.
Ours is one of many community-based programs across the country proving that the best way to keep underprivileged youths on the right track is to invest in them early and continue investing. Mr. Heckman’s findings provide further confirmation that this work is of crucial importance.
We’ve reached a milestone when investing in early-childhood education is considered “conventional wisdom.” Let’s work to ensure that investments in children and teenagers become the norm.
Erie Neighborhood House
A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2007 edition of Education Week as Intervention Advice From Nobel Economist Praised