Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Does Preschool really help?...

Back in October I did a post on First5 California and their mandatory preschool idea. I wrote:
Have you heard of the California Children and Families Commission? Have you seen the commercials on the tube recently by First5 California? They are the ones that promote the idea that children who attend preschool will be better adjusted socially and do better academically (not only in K-12 but in higher education as well). ...the article titles in the Winter '03 newsletter: “Going to Scale with Pre-Kindergarten: Moving Toward High-Quality Early Learning Opportunities for All California 3- and 4-Year-Olds,” or “In Large and Small Counties, Plans Underway for Universal Preschool”. When addressing the need for “pre-kindergarten” one of the articles states, “As the science of early childhood development tells us, a child’s preparation for school and for life begins not with preschool at age 3, but much earlier, starting with a healthy pregnancy and continuing with nurturing, stimulating experiences through infancy, the toddler years and beyond.” “…recent research findings and a supportive climate of public opinion in California suggest that the time is right for a phased initiative to dramatically improve the accessibility and quality of pre-kindergarten programs for all 3- and 4- year-olds in California. High-quality pre-kindergarten experiences help reduce performance gaps in the first grade, which in turn have been shown to lay the foundation for observed performance gaps in later grades. Recent longitudinal studies have found that children exposed to high-quality preschool show lasting gains on a variety of educational and other dimensions all the way into adulthood…”
Is there data that contradicts these assertions? Yes, there is. Thanks to Donna in our homeschool group for providing a link to and the following article titled, Quotes and References from Early Childhood Testimony. It highlights testimony from the House K-12 Education Finance Committee. Consider these excerpts,
"Once the children enter school there is little difference between the scores of Head Start and control children. . . . Findings for the individual cognitive measures--intelligence, readiness and achievement--reflect the same trends as the global measure. . . . By the end of the second year there are no educationally meaningful differences on any of the measures." "This is not the first time universal preschool education has been proposed. . . . Then, as now, the arguments in favor of preschool education were that it would reduce school failure, lower dropout rates, increase test scores, and produce a generation of more competent high school graduates. . . . Preschool education will achieve none of these results... We simply cannot inoculate children in one year against the ravages of a life of depravation." "To summarize, then, no empirical evidence supports the claims that universal preschool will reduce the number of children who will perform poorly in school, become teenage parents, commit criminal acts, or depend on welfare. Although some projects have had meaningful short-term effects on disadvantaged children's cognitive ability, grade retention, and special education placement, those benefits are short-lived. At the same time, most interventions have concentrated on disadvantaged children, so there is no evidence for universal replicability. In fact, a large body of evidence shows that preschool can have a negative impact on middle-income children."

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