Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution wondered why “children who participated in Tennessee’s statewide pre-K program had worse attitudes toward school and poorer work habits than children who didn’t.” Haskins co-authored a policy brief (entitled “Trouble in the Land of Early Childhood Education?”) with Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a professor at Columbia University, and they noted, “the past year has seen a disagreement erupt on the playground” regarding the future of pre-K early education.
They admitted, “One of the most important aspects of early education is its popularity with the public.” They continued, “Public support is vital if we aim to expand the availability and quality of pre-K programs.” They estimated, “the annual cost of Head Start is around $9,000 per child, and some pre-K programs cost as much as $15,000 per child or more.” The program should be for low-income, poor single mothers and their children, the authors said. Citing poll results which could be considered vague, they noted that 89% of children “getting a ‘strong start in life’ is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important.’”
They also brought up the idea that pre-K programs may not be as effective as they had hoped. The authors also admitted, “the well-known, well-conducted Head Start Impact Study had already reported the finding that preschool academic gains fade out over the kindergarten year.” Two other academic research studies, “raised the possibility that pre-K programs” may be “too regimented” and repetitive. The brief also criticized the Tennessee program’s design flaw, but it appears this criticism came only after the recent results were released.
Adding to that, the authors claimed that this one study cannot debunk the multiple other studies conducted on the issue. They said, “if we average across high-quality studies from the past…we find evidence that preschool produces ‘substantial benefits’ for children.”
Photo by Center for American Progress