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April 27, 2010

Fueling the Pre-K Fire

BonfireIf you are already a supporter of publicly-funded pre-k, you know why researchers and reporters use the phrases, "mounting evidence", "growing body of research", and "well- documented benefits" of pre-k. They are all ways of saying, "We both know that pre-k makes sense. Why are we still talking about this?"

Every once in a while a study or report is published that is less than positive about public pre-k. These reports are like rocks thrown on a bonfire when you consider the quantity and quality of studies that support the benefits of pre-k for children and communities. Sure, some sparks fly when a study that is less than positive is published but that is all there is, sparks. When a bonfire is really burning, you can't put it out with a rock.
Pre-k is a fire is built on a foundation of research with a 50 year history.
If you want to read an overview of the wide range of recent pre-k research, check out this Public Policy Forum early childhood research chart. The matrix outlines the long and short-term benefits of pre-k for children, along with cost-benefit studies. And the field of research supporting public pre-k keeps growing. On the National Institute for Early Childhood Research (NIEER) web site, I found five studies published last year that support findings that high quality pre-k has substantial benefits.

Just this month, Pre-K Now's very own Albert Wat published the report, The Case for Pre-K in Education Reform: A Summary of Program Evaluation Findings. With his keen understanding of the field, he describes six separate evaluations of state funded pre-k programs published since 2005. These studies found that students who enrolled in pre-k were 30 to 50 percent less likely to repeat a grade in the years after. Students were also 49 percent less likely to be referred for special education services, which can cost twice as much as mainstream education. So read this report and pickup some fuel for the fire. Know why pre-k matters.

Image from: http://gardeningwithchildren.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/bonfire.jpg


Most of the research cited by advocates was done on small scale programs targeted to the most at risk children and does not support or prove the case for a universal intervention to preschool.

The bonfire you speak of is being fueled by a well funded well connected lobby that is throwing hard earned tax payer money into it. We are just burning our limited resources.

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