Pre-K programs still not helping kids

In an article entitled, “Study: Nope, government pre-K programs still not actually helping kids,”  published on, Mary Katherine Hamm writes that the Head Start program has been a big, disappointing flop.  She quotes extensively from the second government study on the program which anyone interested in early childhood education should read – especially with our debate about full-time kindergarten.

Here’s an excerpt discussing the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-kindergarten (TN VPK) program:

The Vanderbilt researchers summarize their findings:

The relatively large effects of TN‐VPK on the Woodcock Johnson achievement measures found at the end of the pre‐k year were greatly diminished and no longer statistically significant at the end of the kindergarten year. The only exception was a marginally significant negative effect on Passage Comprehension such that nonparticipants had higher scores at the end of the kindergarten year than TN‐VPK participants.

Similarly, at the end of first grade, there were no statistically significant differences between TN‐VPK participants and nonparticipants on the Woodcock Johnson achievement measures with one exception. There was a significant difference that favored the nonparticipant group on the Quantitative Concept subscale.

These diminished effects were not entirely unexpected in light of the findings in other longitudinal studies of the effects of early childhood programs on economically disadvantaged children. For preschool programs, a typical finding is that the cognitive effects are not sustained for very long after that initial year.

Whitehurst puts it in graph form. A shorthand explanation: If the bar is below the zero line, the control group of non-pre-K kids beat out the pre-K kids. If it’s above the zero line, the pre-K kids outperformed. Ouch:

graph pre-K

I urge you to read the entire article.


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