With President Obama having announced his "Preschool for All" scheme last February, legislation has now been introduced in Congress to create federally-funded universal PreK for all of the nation's four year olds.
Unfortunately, the PreK ideologues--who view PreK as the panacea for low educational achievement and, hence poverty---ignore the evidence that PreK programs are not effective.
The Director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, Russ Whitehurst, reports of a study evaluating the actual (versus purported) long-term benefits of PreK:
- Vanderbilt University researchers took 3k four year olds whose parents had applied for their children to join Tennessee's Voluntary Pre-K Program (TN-VPK), a full-day pre-kindergarten program for children of low-income families. TN-VPK standards are very high, have no more than a 10:1 child to adult ratio, and are similar to the "Preschool for All" standards.
- Comparing the children who won the lottery and entered the TN-VPK program with those who did not gain admission, the researchers evaluated 1.1k children from both groups. Cognitive skills were tested at the beginning and end of PreK, kindergarten, and first grade. Several non-cognitive skills (for example, the ability to work independently or work well with others), were also evaluated.
- Students enrolled in the TN-VPK program actually performed less well on cognitive tasks at the end of first grade than did non-participants.
- No statistically significant differences were found among TN-VPK participants and non-participants in teacher-rated social and emotional skills.
- There results were mixed when comparing routinely collected school records. However, TN-VPK students were more likely to have received school-based special education services than non-participants.
Even though this study is the only first large-scale random trial of a state PreK program, its results indicate that the hypotheses upon which PreK programs are predicated are faulty. Right now, there is no serious evidence that PreK meaningfully impacts the academic performance or social or emotional skills of the participants in TN-VPK from low-income families.
Until that evidence is found and scrutinized, people should beware that universal PreK is an expensive day care program that Democrats want to be a universal right for working parents at the taxpayers' expense.
Let the discussion begin...
To read about the study, click on the following link:
"New Evidence Raises Doubts on Obama's Preschool for All."