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Increased Access to Preschool Does Not Guarantee Increased Achievement, Report Finds

Increased Access to Preschool Does Not Guarantee Increased Achievement, Report Finds

As more and more people in all spheres of influence advocate for early education in the form of preschool, a new study into Tennessee's $86 million-a-year state-funded preschool program suggests increasing access doesn't necessary guarantee increased student achievement.

In fact, though the study, conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt University, found initial improvement and outpacing from children who attended the state's preschool program versus students who did not, that achievement soon faded after kindergarten.

"The Vanderbilt researchers followed nearly 800 children through the program along with a smaller control group of kids, most of whom did not attend pre-K," said NPR.

"By the end of kindergarten, [researcher Dale] Farran noticed something odd in the data: 'The children who had not had pre-K caught up,' she says. Keep in mind, all of the kids in the study are low-income, which makes the team's next headline even stranger."

"'By the end of second grade,' Farran says, 'the children who'd had state pre-K were underperforming the control children. And that continued into third grade.'"

But while these results might seem like bad news for preschool education, the researchers are quick to warn against assumptions that preschool is not important. The researchers say that their study's results do not warrant decreased of support of preschool, but rather demand increased support of higher quality programs.

When taking a look at Tennessee's preschool program, Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University said that "Tennessee's program looks good on paper but that the state made a few key mistakes when it scaled the program up to more than 900 classrooms across 95 counties. First, it created no mechanism for quality control to make sure teachers were following best practices from one end of the state to the other. Also, Barnett says, the state underfunded the program," according to NPR.

Barnett argues that preschool programs can indeed benefit children and increase achievement if the time and money is spent by the state to get it right.

The researchers have secured funding to extend research of Tennessee's students into the seventh grade, allowing for the study of preschool's effects to occur in real-time. Stay tuned.

Read more here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

09/30/2015

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