February 2013 Archives

Education insiders overwhelmingly believe that President Obama's universal preschool proposal is going nowhere fast. But, just for a second, let's pretend the program gets enacted. Let's also pretend that all 50 states fully embrace the plan and pony up funds to provide free or subsidized pre-k to every 4-year-old. Where are those kids going to go? It's not an idle question. There are basically two options right now: Expand public schools downward to serve 4-year-olds. Tap existing community-based, faith-based, and private preschools, nursery schools, and childcare centers to deliver the new pre-k program. Experience with state pre-k programs shows that ...

According to the Wall Street Journal editorial board: "The feds are going to educate your toddler no matter the evidence." If the WSJ editorial board can't even be bothered to understand what the President called for on preschool last week I'm not sure why anyone should care what they think of the proposal. (For the record, the administration is proposing a state-federal funding partnership to expand pre-k access using existing community- and school-based providers, not a federally-run program.) I've already explained here most of the reasons why the WSJ is wrong about the evidence on pre-k (Note: Head Start=/=all ...

Great piece by Matt Yglesias calling into question the logic and value of early childhood advocates' "return on investment" rhetoric. As is likely clear from this post, I've long been very frustrated with the constant focus on cost-benefit analyses from pre-k advocates and insistence that "pre-k pays for itself." I think early childhood advocates think they're being clever by making the economic case in this way: "See, this is such a valuable thing we can't afford not to do it, and by the way, it will generate so much savings it won't really cost anything! How can elected officials say ...

It's a very good thing that the administration's definition of pre-k quality includes quality curriculum and not just teacher qualifications and class sizes. Rich content is an important and woefully overlooked component of quality pre-k experience (see here for more on that). But including the words "a rigorous curriculum" for 4-year-olds was a mistake. Quality pre-k programs absolutely need a clearly articulated, intentional curriculum that focuses on rich language experiences and content that predicts school readiness and includes teacher led instruction as one component of a context that also emphasizes play, center time, and small group activities. And lots of ...

In addition to a new state partnership for universal pre-k, the Obama administration's more detailed early childhood agenda released yesterday appears to call for an expansion of Head Start. This is interesting for two reasons: First, it seems to take the $7 billion in Head Start funds off the table as a potential offset for part of the costs of new pre-k investments. In general I think that's a good thing: For all the challenges it faces, Head Start is just about the only funding stream for any kind of preschool for poor kids in states like Mississippi, and eliminating ...

Via Matt Yglesias, more details on the universal pre-k proposal from Tuesday's state of the union address. But still no word on the big question: How much does it cost, and how does the administration propose to pay for it? (apparently, we have to wait for the full budget proposal to find that out). Without a clear answer on that question--and offsets that are attractive to House Republicans--this isn't going anywhere. Where there are answers here, they also raise more questions. For example, the cornerstone of the proposal appears to be: a cost sharing partnership with all 50 states, to ...

With last night's State of the Union proposal to expand pre-k access, there's a lot of buzz out there on pre-k today--and, as always with D.C. or the internet, a lot of misconceptions. I want to clear up a few common myths about the evidence on pre-k. The following statements are not true. The evidence for pre-k impacts comes exclusively from "boutique" programs that were small, expensive, and can't be replicated: Not true. To be sure, the most frequently cited study of pre-k impacts, the High/Scope Perry Preschool Study, which employed "gold standard" randomized controlled tried methods, does ...

My colleague Andrew Rotherham is an astute analyst of education politics, and his analysis of the significant obstacles facing any federal push on pre-k coming out of tonight's State of the Union is pretty dead on. I would quibble with one point is his analysis, however. Andy writes: 3) There is no center to hold. The basic battle lines are people who think expanding access to pre-K is paramount and those who think improving quality in pre-K is. Three quick points here: First, I don't think there's anyone participating seriously in these debates at a policy level who doesn't think ...

Big early childhood proposal in President Obama's State of the Union address: Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on - by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their ...

If you haven't yet, you should definitely read David Kirp's NYT op-ed on Union City, New Jersey's approach to education reform and his forthcoming book on the same. A few years ago I had the opportunity to spend some time learning about Union City's work on pre-k and early literacy and was duly impressed by their success there. Union City's embrace of quality pre-k and systematic effort to create a truly language-rich learning environment and effective literacy instruction across all their elementary schools are truly worth learning from. And their success educating a primarily immigrant and English language learner population ...

Last week, the Center for American Progress published a brief white paper calling for major new federal investments in Universal Pre-k and childcare. Specifically, CAP called for a major new federal program to match state expenditures on universal pre-k programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. The programs would be free for families up to 200% of poverty, with parents paying on a sliding scale above that, and would be required to meet certain quality standards. Estimated 10-year federal cost of $98.4 billion. CAP also calls for a significant increase in federal child care spending for children ages 0-3, to double ...

As politicians and policymakers focus increasing attention on both current and long-term federal fiscal deficits, the intergenerational distribution of federal spending is coming in for heightened scrutiny. One stat--the federal government spends more than 6 times as much per elderly person in the U.S. as it does per child--is particularly striking. Local, state, and federal governments combined spend a little over $26,000, on average, on each elderly person over 65, compared to $11,822 on each child 18 and under. Moreover, the bulk of spending on the elderly comes from federal funds, while more than 2/3 of ...

Exciting news for District of Columbia residents: Enrollment in D.C. public schools (both public and charter) rose 5% for 2012-13, the fourth consecutive year of enrollment gains following a long period of declining enrollments. D.C. school enrollment is now at the highest level in 20 years. Both DCPS and charter schools experienced increased enrollment. Increasing public school enrollment in D.C. is good news for several reasons: First, it suggests that efforts to improve the quality of education in D.C.--through both DCPS reforms and the growth of quality charter options--are making the District's public schools more ...

One tangential thought from yesterday's post about new research on gender gaps in the elementary grades. This is a good example of the federal role in education research working. It doesn't appear that this study was funded by the Department of Education, but the researchers used data made available by the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, a massive, long-term study that collected information on over 17,000 children starting in kindergarten and tracked them (with some attrition) through 5th grade. The resulting data set, along with the data set from its companion Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, has been an ...

This recent Journal of Human Resources article on gender gaps in elementary school students test score performance and teacher-assigned grades contains a lot of fascinating stuff, so it's unfortunate that the media coverage it inevitably attracts has been reduced to "elementary school-aged boys are actually smarter than girls, but teachers screw them over by giving them lower grades based on their behavior." (Give Christina Hoff Sommers credit for not jumping on that stupid bandwagon in this NYT article over the weekend--although her piece is also much more about ideas she already had than what this study found.) Here's what you ...


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