Preschool Gains: Do they last?
DOES PRESCHOOL LEAD TO LATER SCHOOL SUCCESS? If there are cognitive gains, they taper off in later elementary grades, so research indicates. More important is what the ‘fade out’ means for the overschooled child. Here are some provocative pieces to challenge assumptions:
- The Preschool Picture
By Chester E Finn, Jr
[The] big issue with pre-K education is whether the gains and gap reductions last. Evidence is limited because the longitudinal studies needed to answer such questions are costly, complex, and obviously time-consuming. But the available evidence is profoundly discouraging. Most of the gains that can be found upon entry into school ebb over time, and the differences attributable to various kinds of programs tend to wash out, too. In fact, effects that may appear significant at the conclusion of the program itself frequently fade to the vanishing point by the time youngsters have progressed as far as 3rd grade. That fadeaway doubtless has more to do with what happens to students in the K—12 system—and the continuing malignant influences in the outside lives of many youngsters—than with preschool programs themselves. But it also suggests that universalizing the preschool experience is not the way to achieve lasting gap reduction. Indeed, as Fuller and others have noted, if the policy goal is to narrow gaps between haves and have-nots, why would the same programmatic intervention be administered to everybody?
(Read the rest here)
- More Evidence that Universal Preschool Doesn’t Offer Lasting Benefits
By Lisa Snell
If preschool advocates are selling large investments in state-run preschool programs as the silver bullet to raise student achievement in public schools and lower the dropout rate, mounting evidence finds little support for these optimistic claims. The failures of the nation’s K-12 public schools erase any benefits that pre-kindergarten might offer. Soon after they leave kindergarten, students who attend state-run preschool programs are performing no better than those students who did not enroll. Universal preschool is an over-hyped solution to the difficult, important work of reforming the K-12 education system. By diverting scarce resources away from actually fixing the K-12 public school system, universal preschool isn’t part of the solution to our education problems.
(Read the rest here)
- Moving up the Grades:
Relationship between Preschool Model and Later School Success
By Rebecca A. Marcon
By the end of the primary grades, there was little difference in the academic performance of children who had experienced three different preschool models. This finding was consistent with the developmental assumption that, by the end of third grade, most children will have attained the basic academic skills. Earlier limitations associated with a combination approach had been overcome, and children were generally academically comparable and on “even footing” when they entered the transition to the later elementary school grades. What happened on the other side of this transition? Why did academic performance of children from academically directed preschool classes begin to decline? The difference between their school grades and those of children from child-initiated preschools was not just statistically significant—the 14% difference in grades was of practical significance with children differing by more than a third of a standard deviation in overall grades. Perhaps the answer can be found in new demands characteristic of the later elementary school grades. Through the primary grades, children are learning to read.An academically directed approach typically emphasizes the act of reading over comprehension. Beginning in fourth grade, children are reading to learn; comprehension is critical. In fourth grade, they encounter more abstract concepts that do not necessarily match up with their everyday experiences. Additionally, fourth-grade teachers expect children to be more independent in the learning process, to assume more responsibility for their learning, and to show greater initiative. Perhaps teachers foster this independence by stepping back somewhat and shifting their instructional approach to be less didactic. It is at this point that motivation and self-initiated learning become crucial for children’s later school success. This is the point at which Elkind (1986) and Zigler (1987) worried that short-term academic gains produced by overly didactic, formal instructional practices for young children would be offset by long-term stifling of children’s motivation. (Read the rest of the article here)
- Lack of Results in International Early Education Programs
Early education is a growing concern to many countries around the world. Much of this concern has been centered in Europe, where governments provide care and schooling for children as young as a year old. Billions of dollars are spent on these programs, which are designed to give children a head start in their education and socialization. But is there documentable evidence that early education has made a difference in the academic progress of these children?
This question can be answered by a recent study that compared the academic scores of children from many of the industrialized nations of the world. In 2000, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) was conducted, which tested children from 32 nations in the areas of reading literacy, mathematics, and science.The results showed that children who have to start school at a very young age did not consistently do better than those who can start later. A similar assessment, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), revealed comparable results.
The country of Finland was a standout in both of these international assessments, ranking near or at the top in all tested subjects. These impressive results were achieved despite the fact that school attendance in Finland is not compulsory until age 7, later than almost any other European country.
Japan, Korea, and Singapore also had some of the highest scoring students in the PISA and TIMSS assessments, but none of these countries have fully developed early education programs. Japan’s early education is probably the most comprehensive out of the three, and even there substantial numbers of children do not attend any school before 1st grade. Singapore does not have any publicly funded early education.Some of the lower scoring countries in PISA were Sweden and Greece, which both emphasize early education. Sweden has some of the most comprehensive childcare in Europe, with the vast majority of children ages 1-12 having a place in a publicly funded child-care center. Even with this emphasis, however, Sweden ranked among the average countries in the PISA test, and Greece was among the five worst nations in all three subject areas. (Read the full article here).
- HeadStart: A tragic waste of money
By Andrew J. Coulson
When the researchers gave both groups of students 44 different academic tests at the end of the first grade, only two seemed to show even marginally significant advantages for the Head Start group. And even those apparent advantages vanished after standard statistical controls were applied.In fact, not a single one of the 114 tests administered to first graders — of academics, socio-emotional development, health care/health status and parenting practice — showed a reliable, statistically significant effect from participating in Head Start.Some advocates of the program have acknowledged these dramatic results, but suggest that it’s not necessarily Head Start’s fault if its effects vanish during kindergarten and the first grade — perhaps our K-12 schools are to blame.But that’s beside the point. Even if it’s true, it means that Head Start will be of no lasting value to children until we fix our elementary and secondary schools. Until then, money spent on Head Start will continue to be wasted.
(Read the rest here)