Feb 22, 2013

Studies on the Effectiveness of All Day Kindergarten after 2000

Proponents of All-Day Kindergarten say that the overwhelming preponderance of studies since the 1970′s and 1980′s show a positive benefit of all day kindergarten.  Yet here are quotes from two large studies done after the year 2000, done by the federal government and the Rand Corporation, neither being conservative standard bearers, and a meta analysis of many studies that show there is fade out of any benefits, decrease in positive attitude towards school, and actual harm to math ability:

A meta-analysis found that attending full-day (or all-day) kindergarten had a positive association with academic achievement (compared to half-day kindergarten) equal to about one quarter standard deviation at the end of the kindergarten year. But the association disappeared by third grade. Reasons for this fade-out are discussed. Social development measures revealed mixed results. Evidence regarding child independence was inconclusive. Evidence was suggestive of a small positive association between full-day kindergarten and attendance and a more substantial positive association with the child’s self-confidence and ability to work and play with others. However, children may not have as positive an attitude toward school in full-day versus half-day kindergarten and may experience more behavior problems. In general, the research on full-day kindergarten would benefit from future studies that allow strong causal inferences and that include more nonacademic outcomes. The authors suggest that full-day kindergarten should be available to all children but not necessarily universally prescribed.   Harris Cooper, Ashley Batts Allen, Erika A. Patall and Amy L. Dent – Effects of Full-Day Kindergarten on Academic Achievement and Social Development – REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH 2010 80: 34 DOI: 10.3102/0034654309359185  http://rer.sagepub.com/content/80/1/34 3/24/10

We found that both academic and nonacademic school readiness skills at entry to kindergarten were significantly related to eventual reading and mathematics achievement in fifth grade. Controlling for nonacademic readiness skills at kindergarten entry eliminated the black-white achievement gap in reading at the fifth grade, while attending a full-day kindergarten was unrelated to reading performance. Attendance in a full-day kindergarten program was not related to achievement in mathematics in fifth grade except when nonacademic school readiness factors were included in the model. When those factors were considered, full-day attendance was negatively related to math achievement. In other words, after controlling for nonacademic readiness at kindergarten, children who had attended a full-day program at kindergarten showed poorer mathematics performance in fifth grade than did children who had attended a part-day kindergarten program. This finding raises the possibility that earlier studies may have failed to find relationships between full-day kindergarten and outcomes because they omitted important information relating to nonacademic dimensions of readiness. Future studies should explore whether the inclusion of such variables changes interpretations about the effectiveness of full-day programs. Le, et al – School Readiness, Full-Day Kindergarten, and Student Achievement: An Empirical Investigation – Rand Corporation, http://www.aecf.org/upload/publicationfiles/ec3624j67.pdf, 2006

“In terms of Kindergarten program type, there is little meaningful difference in the level of children’s end-of-year reading and mathematics knowledge.” (Amy Rathburn, Jerry West, and Elvira Germino-Hausken, “From Kindergarten Through Third Grade: Children’s Beginning School Experiences,” U.S Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2004-007, August 2004, 33, available at nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/2004007.pdf)

“This report did not detect any substantive differences in children’s third-grade achievement relative to the type of kindergarten program (full-day vs. half-day) they attended.” (Rathburn, et.al)

“Third-grade reading, mathematics, and science achievement did not differ substantively by children’s sex or kindergarten program type.” (Rathburn, et. al.)

Feb 16, 2013

State of the Union Statistics Mislead on Preschool Benefits

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

In the State of the Union speech, President Obama put forth the idea that America should spend hundreds of billions of dollars on universal preschool for four year old children and further expand government intervention in the lives of all American families. He justified this grandiose idea by trying to say that there are supposedly positive effects in universal preschool states or because preschool supposedly yields a return on investment.  Read on to find out why his statements don’t hold water and why universal preschool is such a bad idea.

President Obama is clearly ramping up his vision for government involvement in the lives of all American citizens based on the State of the Union speech and this White House Fact Sheet:

“As part of that effort, the President will propose a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high-quality early learning for a child – beginning at birth and continuing to age 5.  By doing so, the President would invest critical resources where we know the return on our dollar is the highest: in our youngest children.”

It used to be, not all that long ago that statements like this elicited either high levels of mocking scorn or great anger. Sadly, the more and more people seem to be willing to accept government benefits without counting the financial or freedom cost.  Let us analyze what the president had to say in his speech about preschool to show why this idea is no where as good as it sounds:

“But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.”  

This is not government’s job.  The US Constitution is silent on the issue of education, which means that according to the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the job of education belongs to states and the people, most especially parents.

“And that has to start at the earliest possible age. You know, study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.”

This is not true either.  According to the 15 pages of research summaries, quotes and charts, compiled on our site under the heading Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs, there are eight large-scale studies showing evidence of actual emotional harm for children involved in schooling too early.  These studies were conducted at prestigious institutions like MIT, Standford, and the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development.  Here is one example:

“On average, the report finds that the earlier a child enters a preschool center, the slower his or her pace of social development, while cognitive skills in pre-reading and math are stronger when children first enter a preschool program between the ages of two and three.”

But today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.”

Quality is in the eye of the beholderThe government idea of quality is a program that teaches a state required radical curriculum so that three and four year olds will learn about careers, environmentalism, social activism and gender identity.  (See Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems and Dayton DOE Admits Plan to Control Preschool Curriculum via State & Federal Funds     

 ”Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool.

It is probably good for their children that middle class parents can’t afford preschool, because some of the studies I mentioned above actually show greater harm to children in middle and upper class families. Here is more information about the large Stanford study:

“The biggest eye-opener is that the suppression of social and emotional development, stemming from long hours in preschool, is felt most strongly by children from better-off families,” said UC Berkeley sociologist and co-author Bruce Fuller.”

 “And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.”

 It is not the lack of preschool that “shadows” poor children.  It is the lack of two parents.  As we and many others have repeatedly stated, being from single parent families results in almost every bad social outcome that can be named – poor academic performance, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual activity, and suicide.  We have also repeatedly quoted the failure of preschool programs like Head Start.  More importantly though, we have repeatedly highlighted the research of Dr. William Jeynes of the University of California at Santa Barbara who found:

Using “data from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey to examine the impact of student religious commitment and living in intact families on academic achievement among black and Hispanic 12th graders. Students with intact families and high levels of religiosity scored as well as all white students on most achievement measures and higher than their black and Hispanic counterparts without intact families or high religiosity.”

Continue reading »

Feb 10, 2013

DFL Stops Republican Effort to Uphold Legislative Authority

Again without notice on the publicly available agenda documents, the Senate took up the confirmation votes for several major commissioners, including Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius, about whom we raised many significant concerns in our last alert.  The Senate Republican Caucus deserves great thanks and congratulations. Despite being in the minority and having several other candidates about whom they could have raised concerns, they decided to take their stand by discussing in detail two of the many statutory violations and constitutional sidesteps that we listed in that update in order to make the very necessary points about this commissioner’s violation of separation of  powers and the rule of law.

The effort was led by Senator Sean Nienow, Ranking Minority Member for the Education Finance Division, who made a motion to re-refer the appointment to the Education Committee until the Administrative Law Judge Barbara Nielson finishes ruling on whether the DOE under this commissioner has violated the statutes covering the extensive rewriting of the standards and benchmarks. He did an excellent job of explaining how it was not about the social studies standards or qualifications, but how important it was to delay the vote until the judge ruled in order to uphold legislative authority.  He was ably assisted by Minority Leader David Hann, Ranking Member on the Education Policy Committee, Carla Nelson, as well as Senators Paul Gazelka and Scott Newman.  They effectively argued against the misstatements of Education Committee Chairwoman Patricia Torres Ray and Senator Dick Cohen.  Ultimately, however being in the minority was the deciding factor, and the motion to re-refer was defeated on a vote of 26-39 and the confirmation going through on a vote 45-20.

Please see below for details such as roll call votes, links to the video, summary, and quotes.  More importantly, please contact and thank Senate Minority Leader David Hann (651-296-1749) and Senator Sean Nienow (651-296-5419), as well as the others listed and your own senator if appropriate (info here).  This incident gives us hope that there are senators that won’t roll over and play dead and that are willing to do what is right even if in the minority.  Let us keep encouraging our legislators to stand on these important principles!

Continue reading »

Feb 3, 2013

Education Commissioner About to be Confirmed w/o Notice & Despite Multiple Issues

With almost no forewarning to allow the public to prepare testimony, the Minnesota Senate Education Committee recommended the confirmation of Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius. Although committee Republicans asked some good questions, there was ultimately little that they could do given Democrat control.  The nomination was forwarded to the full Senate on a voice vote with only slight dissent. We have just found out that the full Senate vote will likely occur tomorrow, Monday, February 4th. Although it is unlikely to stop her final confirmation, Education Liberty Watch wants the public and the legislature to conduct the upcoming vote with their eyes wide open as to the alarmingly long list of legal and constitutional violations and sidesteps committed by this commissioner. Please consider forwarding this list to your senator (contact info here), regardless of party, so that they know what they are doing as they cast their vote, and so that you may hold them accountable in the future.

State Statutes Violated
Standards Process (See our testimony and our response for more information)
  1. Constitutional Consistency: Both of the major Department of Education documents submitted to the judge during the standards hearing process (Statement of Need and Reasonableness SONAR and their Response to testimony) fail to mention the statutory requirement that the standards “be consistent with the Constitutions of the United States and the state of Minnesota.” (120B.021, Subd. 2b3). Our testimony noted, “The focus on globalization and reliance of the [standards] committee and the SONAR on a document titled “Preparing Citizens for a Global Community” and making the statement on page 35, “Several leading social studies sources support the need for students to develop skills to become effective global citizens,” seems to be emphasizing loyalty to entities and governance outside of the US and is inconsistent with the US Constitution.”
  2. Benchmarks: These are the specific smalller ideas under each standard. After the big fight over standards and benchmarks in 2003 and 2004, Minnesota Statute 120B.023, subdivision 1(c) was passed that says, “Once established, the commissioner may change the benchmarks only with specific legislative authorization and after completing a review under subdivision 2.” There has clearly been no act of the legislature to do this and the Department’s response to this concern basically says that because it is more convenient for them to do so and because they have done it for other subjects, they may disobey the law.
  3. Revise and Align: Minnesota Statute 120B.023, subdivision 2(f) states, “The commissioner in the 2010-2011 school year must revise and align the state’s academic standards and high school graduation requirements in social studies to require that students satisfactorily complete the revised social studies standards beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. The commissioner must implement a review of the academic standards and related benchmarks in social studies beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.” As stated in Senator Hann’s written testimony (page 12) and Senator Olson’s hearing request(page 1), the Department has gone far beyond the specific and limited authority of “revise and align.” They have done a wholesale rewrite.
  4. Academic Rigor: Minnesota statute, 120B.02, subd, (b)(1) states that, “the rule is intended to raise academic expectations for students, teachers, and schools.” The extensive testimony at the public hearing on the social studies standards by subject matter experts and college professors shows that these new standards are far from rigorous. In addition, the social studies standards are linked to the Common Core English Standards, which have been evaluated to be at a 6th to 8th grade level.
  5. College Readiness: As stated in Minnesota statute 120B.03 and explained on page 30 of the SONAR, the standards by law are to “identify the academic knowledge and skills that prepare students for postsecondary education, work and civic life in the twenty-first century.” Four current or past college professors and content matter experts have extensively testified that these standards do not comply with that legislative intent, including a college professor that teaches future teachers (MacPherson) and a former professor that has been involved in standards development for many states and test development for NAEP and CIVITAS (Fonte).

Continue reading »