An article about performance problems with preschool programs is circulating in multiple sources (The American Spectator and The National Pulse). The focus is the release of a new report from the Brookings Institution that compares preschool enrollment across the states to the performance of those children five years later on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The Brookings report looked at results both for raw NAEP scores overall and scores adjusted for student demographics. Brookings claims:
“Under the most favorable scenario for state pre-K that can be constructed from these data, increasing pre-K enrollment by 10 percent would raise a state’s adjusted NAEP scores by a little less than one point five years later and have no influence on the unadjusted NAEP scores.”
A NAEP Scale Score rise at the state level generally has to be more than one point to even reach the level of statistical significance.
Brookings, which we should note is considered at best a center-left think tank, concludes that:
“Unabashed enthusiasts for increased investments in state pre-K need to confront the evidence that it does not enhance student achievement meaningfully, if at all. It may, of course, have positive impacts on other outcomes, although these have not yet been demonstrated. It is time for policymakers and advocates to consider and test potentially more powerful forms of investment in better futures for children.”
Kentucky’s preschool cheerleaders need to take note of this.
Sometime in late September or during October Kentucky should release its school report cards for the 2017-18 school term. Included for the first time could be data on how preschoolers performed when they took the Grade 3 Kentucky KPREP tests four years later. Based on the cautions just issued by Brookings, it would be best to get several years of such data for Kentucky before making any further large investments in a program that really might not provide much, if any, bang for the buck.
However, the 2017-18 Kindergarten Readiness data is already available in an Excel spreadsheet. This shows that statewide in Kentucky in 2017-18 across the state only half of the students who took part in the state-funded preschool program were considered ready for Kindergarten. For those in the federally-funded Head Start program, readiness was even lower at just 47 percent.
And, this information does not tell us how those children will perform by the time they take KPREP in Grade 3.
Based on past experience, including the information in the new Brookings study, the picture isn’t encouraging.
For example, based on 2016-17 KPREP results for third graders eligible for school lunches (most preschool students are enrolled due to family income status) of only 42.2 percent proficiency in math and 47.1 percent in reading, it will take some doing just to preserve the Kindergarten readiness percentages into the third grade in Kentucky, as well.