New Evidence Raises Doubts on Obama’s Preschool for All
by Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, Brookings Institution, November 20, 2013 (excerpt)
...The rhetoric around the introduction of the legislation includes the by now entirely predictable and thoroughly misleading appeal to the overwhelming research evidence supporting such an investment. For example, Senator Harkin, the lead author of the Senate version of the legislation, declared that “Decades of research tell us that … early learning is the best investment we can make to prepare our children for a lifetime of success.”...
Unfortunately, supporters of Preschool for All, including some academics who are way out in front of what the evidence says and know it, have turned a blind eye to the mixed and conflicting nature of research findings on the impact of pre-k for four-year-olds. Instead, they highlight positive long term outcomes of two boutique programs from 40-50 years ago that served a couple of hundred children. And they appeal to recent research with serious methodological flaws that purports to demonstrate that district preschool programs in places such as Tulsa and the Abbott districts in New Jersey are effective. Ignored, or explained away, are the results from the National Head Start Impact Study (a large randomized trial), which found no differences in elementary school outcomes between children who had vs. had not attended Head Start as four-year-olds. They also ignore research showing negative impacts on children who receive child care supported through the federal child development block grant program, as well as evidence that the universal pre-k programs in Georgia and Oklahoma, which are closest to what the Obama administration has proposed, have had, at best, only small impacts on later academic achievement....
read ... The Brookings Institution