Will New Data Nudge Democrats to Change Their Minds on Universal Pre-K?

 

twenty20_2550bff8-ceb5-404b-b988-0db7b62e480e_Preschool-e1445890691432I sense Ezra Klein did not enjoy writing this piece about new pre-K research:

Perhaps preschool doesn’t help children as much as we thought — or hoped. A new study by Mark Lipsey, Dale Farran, and Kerry Hofer finds that children who were admitted to Tennessee’s pre-K program were worse off by the end of first grade than children who didn’t make the cut.

The study is beautifully designed — it takes advantage of areas in Tennessee where demand for the program outstripped supply, so entrance to the program was decided randomly. That means researchers could compare outcomes for kids who randomly got in with outcomes for those who randomly didn’t, and isolate the effects of the program. What they found should worry advocates of universal pre-K.

At the end of pre-K, the results look pretty much as you would expect: Teachers rates the children who went through pre-K as “being better prepared for kindergarten work, as having better behaviors related to learning in the classroom and as having more positive peer relations.”

The problem is those results dissipate by the end of kindergarten — by then, the group that attended pre-K is no better off than the group that didn’t — and then begin to reverse by the end of first grade. By the end of second grade, the children who attended the pre-K program are scoring lower on both behavioral and academic measures than the children who didn’t.

The researchers admit they’re “perplexed” by their findings, but note that their results echo the findings of the Head Start Impact Study, which was also an unusually well-designed, randomized experiment. And while the researchers don’t bring it up, their findings also echo new evidence out of Quebec, which launched a massive day care program that was successful in signing children up, but seems to have slightly hurt them over time.

Klein does not say this research changed his mind, only that it put a “damper” on his “enthusiasm” for universal pre-K. Likewise, universal preschool booster and Nobel laureate James Heckman apparently remains all in. How about the Democratic Party, which has made pre-K a core part of its anti-inequality agenda? Will Hillary Clinton withdraw her support?

Let me put it this way: I didn’t notice any Democrats advocate reconsidering the party’s support of a national $15 minimum wage after former Obama White House economist Alan Krueger wrote in the New York Times that “$15 an hour is beyond international experience, and could well be counterproductive. … Although the plight of low-wage workers is a national tragedy, the push for a nationwide $15 minimum wage strikes me as a risk not worth taking?” Not so much. And I would guess pre-K will be the same. It’s transcended policy and has now become a “value.” For more on pre-K, check out this Megan McArdle column.

Published in Education
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  1. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    “New data makes educated people change the algorithms.” – Claire Berlinski

    • #1
  2. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    Liberals don’t like facts that disagree with their preconceived notions. Of course, who does?

    • #2
  3. John Hanson Thatcher
    John Hanson
    @JohnHanson

    No they won’t change, because the purpose of Universal Pre-K is not better education for the children, it is better socialization, that is developing a herd mentality on how to be good sheep, and accept the government as the provider of all good things, and to separate children from the influence of their parents and any cultural aspects not directed by the central planners who know better what is “good” for the child.  It is not about education, it is about indoctrination.

    • #3
  4. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    John Hanson: No they won’t change, because the purpose of Universal Pre-K is not better education for the children, it is …

    … jobs for unionized child care workers.

    • #4
  5. Robert E. Lee Member
    Robert E. Lee
    @RobertELee

    John Hanson:No they won’t change, because the purpose of Universal Pre-K is not better education for the children, …

    It’s about day care.

    Whatever happened to letting children be children until first grade starts?

    • #5
  6. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    Of course they won’t change their minds.  It’s a matter of faith for most of them, not facts.  You can’t argue some one out of a position that they weren’t argued into.

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I’d be curious to know if they separated out the types of preschool education.

    When my kids were little, they would start a little preschool program on Tuesdays and Thursdays for three hours each day. Then the following year, it was Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It was wonderful for both moms and preschoolers.

    The kids who went to preschool every day or to preschool plus daycare did not do well, and I’m talking about twenty-five years ago.

    The biggest problem with the daycare and all-day preschool for children is that they are separated from their parents at too young an age for too long a time period.

    I saw kids in daycare settings because we often ended up at the same preschool public activities like puppet shows. The biggest difference I noticed was that the preschool teachers tended to stare at misbehaving children–pushing and grabbing other people’s toys–whereas a parent would have gotten up out of his or her chair and intervened somehow.

    There’s a parental pride that kicks in with socialization that does not exist with babysitters and teachers. “My kid is not going to do that.”

    Unfortunately, these are the most important bonding and socialization years. Parents need to be the caretakers.

    • #7
  8. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    No. Next question.

    • #8
  9. SoDakBoy Inactive
    SoDakBoy
    @SoDakBoy

    How about the Democratic Party, which has made pre-K a core part of its anti-inequality agenda?

    To be fair, if Pre-K public education is universal, then inequality will be reduced.

    • #9
  10. SpiritO'78 Inactive
    SpiritO'78
    @SpiritO78

    If kids at the pre-K level perform better when they are taught basic skills by parents at home then why shouldn’t this be the case for all ages and grades? I realize the study covers pre-kindergarten but the study seems to suggest kids learn more at home. I am not a huge proponent of home-schooling but it seems as long as parents are able (the material isn’t over their head) the results would always favor kids taught at home.

    • #10
  11. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    MarciN:…

    The biggest problem with the daycare and all-day preschool for children is that they are separated from their parents…

    For the “it takes a village” idiots, this is a feature, not a bug.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Robert E. Lee:

    John Hanson:No they won’t change, because the purpose of Universal Pre-K is not better education for the children, …

    It’s about day care.

    Whatever happened to letting children be children until first grade starts?

    They still get to be children. Proper socially-engineered children whose utility is being maximized to the greatest extent possible according to criteria currently acknowledged by the World State.

    • #12
  13. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Terry Mott: You can’t argue some one out of a position that they weren’t argued into.

    This is going into my Favourite Quotes file.

    • #13
  14. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    The only thing that will make children good learners and succeed in school is a work ethic, and parents that give a damn. The first requires the second. If a child doesn’t have these, it doesn’t matter how early you send them to school or how long you keep them there.

    • #14
  15. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    David Carroll:Liberals don’t like facts that disagree with their preconceived notions. Of course, who does?

    I love it when I come across studies confirming this.

    • #15
  16. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    Robert E. Lee: Whatever happened to letting children be children until first grade starts?

    I suspect this statement might give us a hint at the cause of these “perplexing” results.

    • #16
  17. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc
    @Metalheaddoc

    I’m sure the Party of Science! will ignore this because it doesn’t fit the socialist narrative. To the left, Science! isn’t a process to obtain facts and data, but rather a cudgel to be deployed to advance the agenda. If scientism doesn’t work, just pull out a different shillelagh like racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, imperialism, etc. to advance the agenda. The agenda is the Alpha and Omega. Everything else is just a means to that end.

    • #17
  18. Liz Member
    Liz
    @Liz

    Little kids do better at home with their mothers. Fact. However, it remains one of the things che non si dice, even among many conservatives.

    • #18
  19. Damocles Inactive
    Damocles
    @Damocles

    Quoting the Instapundit:

    The goal is a corps of unionized Democrat-voting daycare workers. Whether it helps kids is immaterial.

    http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/217359/

    • #19
  20. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    Liz:Little kids do better at home with their mothers. Fact. However, it remains one of the things che non si dice, even among many conservatives.

    This is certainly true. But it is equally true that staying home with mother isn’t an option for most kids. Mother has to be a breadwinner, either solely or alongside the father. So the question for many families will be “Which is better, public pre-K or daycare?”

    • #20
  21. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    NO, because Democrats and other liberals don’t THINK, they FEEL.  Data are immaterial, intentions are all.

    • #21
  22. Olive Inactive
    Olive
    @Olive

    As a former Pre-K teacher, no. Pre-K is and always was about providing free childcare to parents who can’t or won’t discipline and teach their children at home.

    • #22
  23. Liz Member
    Liz
    @Liz

    Suspira:

    Liz:Little kids do better at home with their mothers. Fact. However, it remains one of the things che non si dice, even among many conservatives.

    This is certainly true. But it is equally true that staying home with mother isn’t an option for most kids. Mother has to be a breadwinner, either solely or alongside the father. So the question for many families will be “Which is better, public pre-K or daycare?”

    I don’t think I would agree that this isn’t an option for most kids. It is an option that is not frequently chosen by the adults.

    • #23
  24. Manny Coolidge
    Manny
    @Manny

    Of course they won’t reconsider.  The real point of education for Democrats is (1) to build up the teacher’s union, (2) make it seem like they are catering to middle class and below, and (3) to indoctrinate students.  The earlier the better.

    • #24
  25. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Suspira:

    This is certainly true. But it is equally true that staying home with mother isn’t an option for most kids. Mother has to be a breadwinner, either solely or alongside the father.

    Of course it’s an option. That option just involves hard choices about making do with a single income, and living on that budget. That means a smaller house, a single vehicle, budget brands, etc. It means scrimping. But the alternative is a young child that spends more time away from home than in it.

    • #25
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