Jul 25, 2018

The American Spectator – Will Congress Heed Evidence Government Preschool Is Worthless?

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In this article published at The American Spectator, Dr. Effrem and American Principles Project senior fellow, Jane Robbins discuss some of the newest research adding to the veritable mountain of studies showing that government preschool is not helpful and in many cases it can be academically and emotionally harmful:

“Under the most favorable scenario for state pre-K that can be constructed from these data,” the study concluded, “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.”

For this, we’re spending $7.6 billion?

As Brookings reported, only one existing study conducted randomized trials of a state pre-K program, with follow-up of pre-K participants and non-participants as they progress through elementary school. That study analyzed the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K Program and produced sobering findings: 1) “fade out” and even reversal of positive achievement effects by grades 2-3, so that pre-K non-participants were outperforming participants; 2) more disciplinary infractions and special-education placements for pre-K participants by grade 3 than for non-participants; and 3) no effect on attendance or retention in later grades. Regarding academic achievement, Brookings’s recent findings align with these.

This dismal report is hardly surprising. The author of the Tennessee study, Dr. Dale Farran, had said in a 2016 Brookings paper that despite 50 years of experience, research does not support the proposition that expanding pre-K will improve later achievement for low-income children.

These papers added to a long list of studies discussed in the Federalist that outlines “government preschool programs’ practically insignificant improvements, fadeout of beneficial effects, their academicand emotional harm… and researchers’ and advocates’ frank agreement with Farran that labeling preschool programs as ‘high quality’ does not correlate with any evidence of improved lives or academic performance, including in studies of Head Start“…

…As evidence mounts against government pre-K, can we expect to see funding dry up? Not likely. The federal government has known about the uselessness of Head Start for literally decades, but has routinely increased spending on that sorry program. For the 2019 budget cycle, both congressional appropriations committees blindly increased Head Start funding by $50-250 million — above the 2018 budget’s absurd $610 million increase.

Remember Head Start and other government pre-K programs when politicians argue for increased collection of sensitive data on citizens, and swapping that data among federal agencies, in the name of building “evidence” to determine “what works.” This is what the bipartisan Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act will supposedly accomplish. Behold, our cup runneth over with evidence that government preschool is ineffective and harmful. We’ll consider giving the government more data when we have evidence the government will pay any attention to it. In the meantime, parents, keep your kids out of government preschool.

The full article is available here. Please try to mention this study as you talk to various members of Congress and candidates during the mid-term campaign.

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