Preschool gains aren't sustained

Preschool — a priority for Barack Obama — won’t save disadvantaged students who go on to second-rate schools, writes Lisa Snell of the Reason Foundation.

Yes, several studies that show preschoolers enrolled in universal preschool make modest gains in kindergarten and the early grades. For example, a 2007 study of five state preschool programs, by the National Institute for Early Education, found that children entering kindergarten who went through a universal preschool program made significant gains in early language, literacy, and math.

Unfortunately, these gains have not translated into lasting, higher academic achievement for the states who have invested heavily in universal preschool. The overlying problem: our broken, under-performing public school system can’t maintain any gains that early education may provide. By the fourth grade all of the gains are washed away. So until we fix the public schools, universal preschool is a waste of precious education resources.

I think the waste comes in offering tax-funded preschool to all children instead of focusing resources on the disadvantaged, whose parents aren’t teaching them the skills and behaviors they’ll need. These kids need good preschools and good elementary schools, middle schools and so on.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Except for the fact, Joanne, that we have a program such as you describe in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, focused on the needs of the most disadvantaged, and the outcomes are still the same as you describe above once they get to third grade. The place where the changes need to take place is in the K-12 program.

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    Rev. Mike, read the last sentence Joanne wrote. You say that changes are needed in the K-12 program. Joanne writes, “These kids need good preschools and good elementary schools, middle schools and so on.” I’m not seeing a whole lot of daylight between your two positions.

  3. This is off topic, but I’ve heard of a “4th grade slump”. Via testing, achievement begins to decelerate for most students beginning in 4th grade. Can anyone point me to some stats that prove/disprove?

  4. And when the day arrives, should that day ever arrive, that these terrific pre-schools that focus on the “disadvantaged, whose parents aren’t teaching them the skills and behaviors they’ll need” spring into existence, where will the kids go after they leave the pre-school?

    Better figure out how to make the K-12 schools good enough to *not* squander the head start, you should pardon the expression, that these mythical pre-schools give their kids.

  5. Well you have wriiten an excellent piece where you have highlighted the pre school gains are nt being sustained as the child moves up the academic ladder. Well in India there is no regualtion as to what should be taught in the pre schools and hence some teach more and some less, it is more of a downward extension of primary education and instead of concrete knowledge abstract knowlege is passed on to the tiny tots. Moreover even if the child gains something through the pre school he is not allowed to apply it in future due to the emphasis on craming at primary level.

  6. Cardinal Fang, the daylight exists in the focus on the disadvantaged. What I didn’t say clearly is that the K-12 program needs to be fixed for EVERYONE, not just one select target group.

  7. greifer says:

    –This is off topic, but I’ve heard of a “4th grade slump”. Via testing, achievement begins to decelerate for most students beginning in 4th grade. Can anyone point me to some stats that prove/disprove?

    I have no stats. But I can explain some of it nonetheless.

    Fourth grade is where the rubber hits the road in terms of content. Subjects are now taught that require reading skills and arithmetic skills. Until fourth grade, teachers can get away with not teaching the students to read or subtract, and keep saying “well, he’s late to develop, but we’ll keep waiting.” Of course, waiting for someone to learn how to read from whole reading methods is a failure for some, but no one acknowledges this, and since no one intervenes early (because they keep “waiting”) there are no achievement gap scores until 4th grade–they aren’t grading on anything that depends on reading or arithmetic. In math, it’s similar. To understand area and other geometric concept, fractions, decimals, or do anything with division, you need to know, cold, to mastery, your multiplication tables. If you don’t know that, you can’t make sense of the rest. If you don’t even know your addition or subtraction tables, it’s impossible to keep up.

    4th grade is the point in my school district when a student can be labelled dyslexic. Literally, “dyslexia” means to them nothing but a general label for “is not capable of reading”, and our district refuses to acknowledge a dyslexia “diagnosis” before 4th grade.

    The same

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