Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten
Assessing Proposals for Preschool and Kindergarten:
Essential information for Parents, Taxpayers, and Policymakers
By Darcy Olsen with Lisa Snell
The 56-page document assesses the argument for universal preschool and concludes that such a move would not be beneficial to children and families. Empirical evidence suggests more early education do not effect positive long-term outcomes. A summary of key findings:
- The National Center for Education Statistics’ longitudinal study of 22,000 children finds no lasting reading, math, or science achievement differences between children who attend halfday and full-day kindergarten. “This report did not detect any substantive differences in children’s third-grade achievement relative to the type of kindergarten program (full-day vs. half-day) they attended.”
- Georgia’s universal preschool program has not improved children’s academic performance. “The study sample does not differ from the entire kindergarten population in GKAP capability scores.”
- Georgia and Oklahoma are in the bottom 10 worst performers for reading achievement on the NAEP fourth-grade reading assessment in 2005, despite years of investment in universal preschool.
- Head Start, the nation’s largest preschool program for disadvantaged children, has not measurably improved educational outcomes. “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.”
- Historic trends are not encouraging. The preschool enrollment rate of four-year-olds has climbed from 16 percent to 66 percent since 1965. Despite the sea change from home education to formal early education, we find student achievement has stagnated in most subjects since 1970
- The French model of early education is not encouraging. French students have significantly lower literacy rates than U.S. students as measured in fourth grade, the earliest year for which comparative data are available.
- America’s flexible approach to early education gives children a strong foundation, according to widely used proxy measures of preparedness, concrete skills assessments, and reports by kindergarten teachers. We find further evidence of the strength of our early education system in international comparisons, which show U.S. fourth graders are “A” students on the international curve, excelling in reading and science and performing above average in math. By twelfth grade, U.S. students are “D” students on the international scale, a decline occurring after fourth grade that implicitly must be addressed through reform of the current system.
Read or download the whole pdf document here.