I was wondering when I’d start seeing some pushback on the idea that government-funded universal pre-kindergarten education was an important and urgent component of educational reform and had proven benefits. This article by Neil McCluskey at RealClearPolitics is a pretty good start:
Today the unenviable task of opposing publicly funded schooling for the littlest Americans falls to me. Worse, I have to disagree with Peter Salins, whose past work I’ve greatly enjoyed. Yet oppose and disagree I shall, especially with Salins’s basic contention that positive effects of publicly funded, “high-quality preschool” are “empirically validated.”
As the Brookings Institution’s Grover “Russ” Whitehurst has been working feverishly to communicate, we simply do not have a good base of top-flight research — studies in which children are randomly assigned to large preschool programs — on which to conclude that public pre-K works. Most assertions about its effectiveness, such as President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union claim that “every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on,” are based primarily on two programs: Perry Preschool of the 1960s, and Abecedarian of the 1970s. Both treated fewer than 60 children, were very expensive, and were staffed by people highly motivated to prove their programs’ worth.
I think there’s sufficient reason to believe that there are certain populations of kids, especially special needs kids, for whom early intervention is vital. The empirical evidence in support of universal pre-K isn’t nearly as compelling.
Read the whole thing.