Education Week: Studies raise doubts about pre-K benefits

Two recent studies challenge a piece of conventional wisdom about pre-K — the notion that early education makes a big difference in student success.

Education Week’s Christina A. Samuels reported on the two studies Thursday. One study examines the connection between state pre-K programs and standardized test scores. The second study follows up on a controversial 2015 critique of Tennessee’s pre-K program.

“Both (studies) say that the effects of prekindergarten don’t appear to be long-lasting, and that advocates should invest time and effort in other methods that might achieve the goal of school readiness,” Samuels wrote.

Thumbnails from the Education Week article:

  • The multistate study concluded that a 10 percent increase in statewide pre-K enrollment would yield less than a 1 percent improvement in scores on the fourth-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress reading exam.
  • The Tennessee study focuses on third-grade test scores. Students who enrolled in pre-K scored lower than non pre-K students in reading, science and math. The reasons are unclear. One theory suggests Tennessee’s pre-K programs simply weren’t very good. Another theory suggests that grade school teachers were unable to build on what children learned in pre-K.

Pre-K continues to be a polarizing issue in Idaho, one of only six states that does not fund an early education program. Supporters argue that pre-K will help prepare young children for the academic challenges that await them in the K-12 system. Opponents question the value of a statewide program, and suggest early education may be best left to families.



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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