Home > Uncategorized > “High Quality” Pre-School Programs Close Achievement Gaps… But “High Quality” Requires “Higher Taxes”

“High Quality” Pre-School Programs Close Achievement Gaps… But “High Quality” Requires “Higher Taxes”

A recent Huffington Post article by Rebecca Klein breathlessly reported that recent research suggests that universal “high quality” preschool can narrow the performance gaps that exist among low-income, black and Hispanic children before they even start school. The findings are summarized as follows:

Researchers looked at how high-quality universal preschool programs have reduced achievement gaps in Boston and Tulsa, Oklahoma, to estimate what these programs could do nationwide. Tulsa and Boston are rare examples of cities that offer wide-scale, high-quality preschool to all 4-year-olds. These programs have been shown to have significant impact on children, although some critics question the methodology that goes in to determining how successful they are.

Low-income students could gain more than five months of additional reading skills by attending a high-quality preschool, according to the analysis, which would reduct their learning gap by 41 percent. Black children could nearly close their achievement gap in reading by gaining nearly seven months of learning, and Hispanic children could completely catch up to white students in reading skills before kindergarten. Results were similar for math…

While targeted programs have been shown to reduce achievement gaps and help learning long-term, the study says there haven’t been many analyses of how universal preschool could similarly minimize these gaps.

(Rutgers researcher) W. Steven Barnett argues that a universal preschool program could be even more powerful than a targeted program.

“Means-tested programs simply miss a lot of children,” he said. “Income isn’t a constant.”

Parents also may feel stigmatized if they send their kids to a program designed for disadvantaged students, he added.

“I think if you ask the question of middle-income and higher-income parents, ‘Would you want to send your children to a program just for children in poverty?’ many of them would say no,” Barnett said. “Why do you think the answer would be different for people who just happen to be poor?”

Unfortunately these researchers live in a world where State budgets are assumed to increase or at least sty constant… but the two districts with “high quality” preschool programming are both facing budget cuts that are resulting in staff reductions. Tulsa is eliminating one 100 positions because it faces budget cuts in the millions due to State budget cuts and Boston will be struggling with a $32 million dollar hole in it’s school budgets for the same reason. Indeed, scanning headlines on State budgets that I get on a daily basis it seems that every state in the union is facing drastic budget cuts. And with every slice to existing STATE budgets the likelihood of closing funding disparities between affluent and poverty-stricken districts diminishes and every opportunity for “high quality” programming is reduced.

 

 

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