By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – President Obama, in his State of the Union address, listed as one of his priorities — high quality preschool education for every child in the nation. Following that he discussed the issue in a major address.

The latest national data available show only 28 percent of 4-year-olds attending preschool according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. New Jersey enrolled 28%, Pennsylvania 16% and Delaware 7%.

Studies have shown that early education has long term effects in later achievement, lower dropout rates and higher income rates, reversing some of the adverse effects of poverty and saving potential costs for remediation and incarceration. Such programs will go a long way in leveling the playing field and hopefully the achievement gap.

But, the emphasis must be on quality — consistent standards, well-paid prepared teachers, program evaluations and compliance.

Read views of advocates and critics in The New York Times.

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