The Push for Pre-K Appears to Be Unjustified

Photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works (CC-By-2.0)
Photo credit: Woodley Wonder Works (CC-By-2.0)

Education reformers, many of whom pushed Common Core, have pushed universal pre-school on us as well. It wasn’t unsurprising due to the age inappropriateness of the early elementary Common Core standards. They would have to promote early childhood education to get kids ready for a “more rigorous” kindergarten.

A Head Start Impact Study showed that any gains made from the program don’t stick with kids through kindergarten. This makes me question not only the cost of programs like Head Start.

Brookings Institute wrote about a study done of the Tennessee’s pre-K program.

Dale Farran and Mark Lipsey, professors at Vanderbilt’s the Peabody Research Institute, have been following a cohort of 1076 children since 2009, of whom 773 entered Tennessee’s new pre-K program through a lottery. The remaining 303 were in the control group, and not given a spot, though about a quarter attended formal pre-K outside of the state program. The subsample analysis was based on matched comparisons of children who did vs. did not participate in the program rather than random assignment.

In 2013, the authors released their short-term findings, which were positive. Children in the “consenting subsample” who participated in the pre-K program did better on achievement tests at the end of the pre-K year, and they received higher ratings from their kindergarten teachers. Teachers said they were better prepared for school than the control group, had better work skills, and were more positive about school. These findings mirrored those of past studies.

But the authors’ 2015 follow-up report was less optimistic. By the end of kindergarten, the achievement test boost for treatment group children in the consenting subsample had disappeared. By the end of first grade, teachers rated the same children’s work skills and preparation as weaker than the control group; the effects reversed. By the end of second and third grade, control group children did better on academic tests than treatment group children.

They note that Tennessee’s approach is more academic-oriented. Isn’t that the point of pre-K post Common Core?

It shouldn’t be shocking that this won’t work, and now there is data that backs it up. States seeking to expand pre-K should seriously reconsider.

HT: Richard Innes