Head Start to Nowhere

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Proponents of early childhood education may sing its praises but reality keeps rearing its ugly head.

The results of a study conducted by Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Research Institute disappointed both liberal educators and think tanks such as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Fordham’s Victoria Sears said:

“The initial evaluation found that the program succeeds in that mission: by the end of the preschool year, participating students made significant cognitive achievement gains when compared to eligible students who applied to TN-VPK but were not accepted (due to space limitations). The new study, however, which sought to evaluate the program’s long-term effects in both cognitive and non-cognitive domains, found that achievement gains made in preschool essentially disappeared when measured at the end of kindergarten and again at the end of first grade. Though surely disappointing, these findings accord with many earlier studies of preschool effects [most conspicuously a raft of HeadStart evaluations], most of which indicate that cognitive gains made by disadvantaged preschool students are not sustained once in school.”

In layman’s terms, Sears was disappointed to see that Vanderbilt’s research team could not rationalize higher investment in pre-K education, which liberals call “early childhood education”. Although there were improvements at the end of pre-K, they found that these improved test scores did not last to the end of kindergarten and first grade. In the actual report, the authors lamented these results and instead, suggested “there is reason to believe from prior research that early cognitive gains attained in pre‐k can be sustained for a longer period if they are large enough to begin with and/or continuously supported with effective instruction in subsequent years.”