Friday, July 17, 2009

Excuse me? II

I promise it's not "Pick on Zach Wamp Day". It's entirely coincidental that the comment below and this one are back to back.

This also from the Tennessean political blog:

“Our children are not reading proficiently when they enter school,” Wamp said.
No kidding. I'm betting that most taxpayers and parents kinda thought that maybe they'd learn to read IN school.

The quote goes on:
“There needs to be a big effort early. Part of it is pre-K. Part of it is Head Start. Part of it is local and foundation support for early reading. Our children are not reading proficiently.
If Zach Wamp thinks an expansion of pre-K is going to be the answer...he's wrong. Following Gov. Bredesen in this path will be a waste of money...but the teacher's union will love him. Again, is this more Washington speak? Or is it misspeak?


N.S. Allen said...

Pre-K programs that have repeatedly been shown to help increase graduation rates, to help lower the need for special education and grade retention, and to more than pay for themselves by reducing remedial costs later in students' lives are "wastes of money?" Honestly?

It's all well and good to say that univeral pre-K is probably not the ideal goal or that we need to target expansion of the program towards at-risk populations instead of just shoving every kid into a pre-K classroom. But straightforwardly dismissing pre-K expansion, with all the research in favor of it, as a futile money-dump designed to please the (ever insidious) teachers' union, is just irrational and ridiculous.

Governments should do things that work to help their citizens. Pre-K does that dramatically, and it should be an important part of any state's education policy.

Kay Brooks said...

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Studies have repeatedly shown that pre-K benefits disappear by grade 4.

It's by far mostly a jobs program for adults. It separates children from families. It unnecessarily burdens taxpayers. It doesn't provide sustained educational benefits for the children. It's become a default babysitting service. The vast majority of moms and dad's can prepare their children for kindergarten. It's not rocket science. It's kindergarten.

It's not something government should be involved in.

din819go said...

Kay -- While I am not in favor of universal pre-K, sadly a large number of parents don't or can't give their kids the basics they need to be ready for kindergarten. Only quality pre-k programs will help. Sadly, so many are glorified baby sitters on the tax payers dime ---

N.S. Allen said...

Of course, other analyses have found quite the opposite of what you suggest - that statistically significant benefits persist right through grade 12 and after. See, for instance, this PA study and this paper by Nobel winner James Heckman - in particular, the section starting around page 25, since the paper itself has a broader focus.

Of course, it would be foolish to say that the one set of numbers disproves the other. The answer might be that one set happens to be incorrect, or it could be that some programs provide long-term benefits and others don't. Or it could simply be that all the data we have so far is ultimately inconclusive. From what I read, there hasn't been a huge amount of long-term follow-up research on these programs.

What we should really be asking, though, is why the benefits of pre-k start to peter out at a certain point in students' lives (if they even do). It makes very little sense to say that the magic just happens to wear off around 4th grade, after all. Effects have causes, and pre-k kids falling back to average performance levels later on suggests not that pre-k doesn't work but that something has gone horribly wrong in the intervening years.

Which would suggest that, even if the studies skeptical of pre-k's long-term benefits were correct, we should stick by our guns on early childhood education and work to figure out what's so wrong with our elementary schools.

Kay Brooks said...

The Reason study says one factor behind preschools' failure to boost educational outcomes is "fade out." A 2006 UC Santa Barbara study found preschoolers were more prepared for kindergarten than non-preschoolers, but that those advantages faded away by the third grade and thus preschool had "limited use as a long-term strategy for improving the achievement gap."

"We're seeing that early schooling may be immaterial to a child's later school performance, or that the current school system, as it is structured and functioning, is unable to sustain any early gains that preschoolers might get," said Lisa Snell, director of education at Reason Foundation and co-author of the report. "There is little factual evidence to backup claims that preschool will boost long-term learning. In fact, we are starting to see some evidence that universal preschool can be detrimental to some kids."

Study Finds Preschool Programs Fail to Demonstrate Lasting, Positive Impact

Kay Brooks said...

Assessing the Effectiveness
of Tennessee’s
Pre-Kindergarten Program:
Second Interim Report, August 2008

Commentary from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research "Unfortunately, an independent study of Tennessee’s Pre-K program, reveals that the scheme is, indeed, failing parents, students and taxpayers. The taxpayer-funded report, performed by the Ohio-based Strategic Research Group, found that “by the Second Grade there was no statistically significant difference [in educational performance] attributable to Pre-K participation.” The initial gains in student achievement associated with Pre-K fade away within three years, leaving no lasting impact for students, according to the study.

The failed Pre-K program has cost taxpayers more than $250 million. It has also cost children precious time that could have been used far more productively.

Troublingly, Governor Bredesen knew the Pre-K scheme wouldn’t work before he ever proposed to inflate the program. "