Mar 20, 2011

Myths and Facts About Early Childhood Education & Quality Rating Systems (QRSs)

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1.       Myth:  50% of Minnesota children enter school not ready to learn.

FACTS:  The studies done by the Department of Education show that only 3-10% of children are not showing the outcome being measured at all.  The rest are proficient or in process.  The Department also said that purpose of the kindergarten readiness scores are to be a snapshot in time and should not be used as composite ready or not ready score and that doing so can have negative consequences. The assessment also tests the arts and social, emotional issue, which are subjective and not assessed in K-12 students.  (See Quotes and References Regarding the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment for details).

“Spending money on advertising that attempts to scare the public and brand children as failures before the age of 5 does a disservice to families and to the good work of those in the field of school readiness.” – Commissioner Alice Seagren, Pioneer Press, February 5, 2006, emphasis added

2.       Myth:  Quality rating systems like Parent Aware in Minnesota provide accountability and improve childcare program quality and childhood outcomes like closing the achievement gap.

FACT:  Evaluations of Parent Aware in Minnesota, other QRSs and national research all admit that QRSs do none of these things (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems for details and more quotes):

“The design does not permit us to determine if Parent Aware causes outcomes for programs, parents, or children. We can look at patterns of associations, but causation cannot be determined.” (Parent Aware Third Year Review, MELF, November 2010, PowerPoint, p. 9, emphasis added)

3.       Myth:  QRSs like Parent Aware are popular with providers and parents and are easily and fairly implemented.

FACTS: According to the Parent Aware third year evaluation, only 14% of the eligible programs in the pilot project participated.  It was skewed heavily toward large center providers making small family programs have to compete against large corporate centers.  Two thirds of the programs received the highest 4 star rating automatically, a free pass.  Providers complained that the rules of the system shifted.  (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems for details).  This automatic 4-star rating is especially problematic for Head Start Programs, which have been found to be both ineffective in general, harmful to the math skills of three year olds and fraudulent in national and federal government evaluations.  During the third year evaluation of the Parent Aware pilot project, the number of parents with children in Parent Aware rated programs who had even heard of Parent Aware had increased only from 20% to 25%.

4.       Myth:  Parent Aware is voluntary for providers and not an expansion of government.

FACTS: Given the terrible economy, providers will be pressured to accept all of the hoops and mandates required in Parent Aware to get funding and referrals to stay competitive in the marketplace.  It will be voluntary just as Minnesota accepting the common core national standards was voluntary to receive a Race to the Top grant or passing a mandatory seatbelt law was voluntary for federal transportation funding.  Parent Aware requires state approved curriculum and assessments and sets up government controlled regions that correspond to the governor’s workforce development regions. This is an enormous expansion of government.

5.       Myth:  Early childhood programs have a high return on investment and help to close the achievement gap.

FACTS: If early childhood programs provided the 700-1800% returns that proponents claimed, every venture capitalist in the nation would be flocking to invest in them, instead of them continuing to be heavily subsidized by government and bringing us this increasing effort for government to control them.  In addition, whatever gains these programs produce in kindergarten readiness, however nebulously that is defined; there is no evidence that they produce long-term gains in academic achievement.  In fact, there is significant evidence that they are associated with significant academic and emotional harm. (See Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs and Preschool Actually Harms Reading Achievement for more details).

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