There is a big push in Kentucky to greatly expand early (preschool) child education.
That would be fine with me – if there was good evidence that these programs really create lasting improvement. Sadly, a lot of research shows that isn’t the case.
For example, a 2013 report on Head Start concluded:
“There was little evidence of systematic differences in children’s elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.”
More recently, a study by Vanderbilt researchers of a Tennessee state-run preschool program (TN-VPK) came to the same conclusion. This study found:
“By the end of kindergarten, the control children had caught up to the TN‐VPK children and there were no longer significant differences between them on any achievement measures. The same result was obtained at the end of first grade using both composite achievement measures.”
And now, the Washington Post, hardly a bastion of conservative reporting, has a new report “Preschool can provide a boost, but the gains can fade surprisingly fast.”
The study referenced in the article comes from professors at the University of California and Duke. The authors write:
“Unfortunately, our investments in many early-childhood programs may be based on an inflated sense of their promise. Even our best efforts often produce only ephemeral gains.”
So, I have to caution Kentucky to go slow regardless of the considerable hype about preschool. Study after study seems to indicate that there simply isn’t much, if any, bang for the buck with these programs.