Browsing articles in "Early Education/Nanny State"
Jul 25, 2018

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

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.

Jul 22, 2018

Caffeinated Thoughts – Is Iowa’s Investment in Pre-K Education Worthwhile?

In this article by Shane Vander Hart at Caffeinated Thoughts, Dr. Effrem makes several statements about the ineffectiveness and invasiveness of government preschool programs in the context of the release of Iowa’s new early childhood standards:

“Having state defined preschool content standards, especially that include controversial social-emotional skills and attitudes like gender roles and family structure diversity, is a major usurpation of parental rights and family autonomy. Because Iowa’s and every other state’s preschool standards are mandated by the federal Head Start Act, they are also unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment,” Dr. Karen Effrem, President of Education Liberty Watch, stated.

Effrem referred to a randomized control trial of Tennessee’s voluntary pre-school program by Vanderbilt University researchers that showed that academic gains achieved by students in Tennessee pre-K classrooms began to fade out by first grade and reversed by second and third grade. Researchers also noted more disciplinary infractions and special education placements by third-grade than students who did not enroll in pre-school…

…Effrem noted that there is much research that demonstrates not only does pre-K programs lack long-term academic benefits, but that short-term benefits fade and pre-K students have behavioral and academic setbacks.

“The emotional harm is particularly concerning and ironic, because preschool is the grade level that has had social-emotional standards in every state and for the longest period of time. Research also shows that it is early academic and attention skills, not social-emotional skills, that are most predictive of long-term academic achievement, but also shows that children who are allowed to play and creatively explore do much better than those subjected to standardized learning at this age,” Effrem said.

“The best thing that Iowa could do for the state’s children and families is to get rid of these standards and rote, mechanized learning and let them be kids,” Effrem added.



Mar 5, 2018

The National Pulse: Progressives Renew Push for Nanny State Programs — Despite Poor Results

Home Visiting to the Rescue?

Because the mountain of evidence continues to show that preschool is not particularly effective, progressives in both parties are pushing home visiting programs to replace them. The author of a recent piece at the Fordham Institute blog used the cloying and inaccurate “parable” of rescuers (the education reformers) using home visiting to pluck vulnerable children whose family poverty had caused them to be thrown into a river of neurodevelopmental delay, word gaps, achievement gaps, and other horrors that can only be fixed by sending bureaucrats into the home to tell their benighted parents how to raise them.

Here are several reasons why this analogy and analysis are incorrect:

  • Experts in neuropsychology and neurodevelopment admit that there is no 0-3 or 0-5 critical period beyond which it is too late to help vulnerable children. Here is an inconvenient truth from a report considered foundational to the pro-preschool and pro-home visiting camp, especially the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, called “Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development”:

    Available evidence indicates that such critical periods are more exceptional than typical in human development. Assertions that the die has been cast by the time the child enters school are not supported by neuroscience evidence and can create unwarranted pessimism about the potential efficacy of interventions that are initiated after the preschool years.

  • As shown by the Tennessee study, The Atlantic article, and other research, a focus on kindergarten readiness in preschool is not only not helpful, but also actually harmful to longer-term academic achievement. The Atlantic article mentions Finland’s approach of not starting formal reading instruction until age 7 and instead focusing on making sure that “children have heard and listened … They have spoken and been spoken to, people have discussed [things] with them … They have asked questions and received answers.” The American system, focused on pushing academics in kindergarten and preschool due to Common Core, is skewed and harmful — as admitted by hundreds of early childhood experts.
  • Home visiting programs in general are not effective, and this is especially true of the Parent-Child Home Program mentioned in the “parable” article. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has shown in repeated reviews that this program is not helpful in improving child development or school readiness — even if improving school readiness were a good thing to do — and that the program as of 2017 does not even meet HHS criteria as a program rigorous enough to review.
  • Home visiting programs do not deal with the root cause of the problem they are trying to solve: single parent families. Poverty is merely a proxy measure for the enormous and tragic consequences of this government-created crisis. Sending bureaucrats into the home will never solve all of the horrific consequences of growing up without two parents replete in the social service literature.

Read the full article HERE.

Jan 30, 2018

The National Pulse: It’s Time for Congress to End These Federal Intrusions into Preschool

That this program [Preschool Development Grants] has not received any funding is very good news, and there are several important reasons that Congress should refuse further funding during budget negotiations. The two most important are the federal interference that is very present, despite Politico’s claim and the flowery language in the bill, and the continued ineffectiveness, academic and emotional harm of preschool programs in general, especially Head Start.

As I wrote at the time ESSA was being drafted:

The grants require alignment to Head Start and the Child Development Block Grants that in turn require [in eleven different places in the current Head Start statute, such as Section 642B(a)(2)(B)(iii)] national preschool standards. These standards are being correlated and aligned to the K-12 Common Core by national organizations and states like California.  They include very controversial and subjective psychosocial standards like gender identity (p. 27), creating a “Baby Common Core.” (See more details on the problematic language HERE.)

This alignment language to Head Start completely negates the “no federal interference” for the grant language in ESSA. These federal standards are in large part social emotional, which makes them even more controversial than the K-12 Common Core standards, which are for the academic subjects of reading and math. Having the federal government require a grant program to align to a federal law that imposes content standards on essentially every pre-k program in the country is the epitome of federal interference. Perpetrating this scheme of such overt federal control of K-12 standards would have created an enormous uproar. It is a complete mystery why constitutional conservatives allowed it during the 2007 reauthorization of Head Start.

Read more HERE.