I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
VPK-Myths and Reality
Just as I know charter schools are not private, but rather public schools, I also know that expending large sums of government [taxpayer] dollars into ever-expanding voluntary preschool programs is not a panacea that improves education long-term. Is it helpful to families that are poor, of course. Is it an entitlement program, of course. Is it the BEST WAY to spend money to improve academic outcomes? NO
No matter who says it, and no matter how loudly it is said, the data from the very few high quality, strictly controlled studies on VPK and similar programs simply do not show these programs as being that impactful--academically. At least not long term.
Are these programs huge money generators for states and communities? YES. Do they create jobs in communities? YES. Are these programs a benefit to poor families? YES. Are these programs wildly popular due to the dollars they bring to states? YES
But for strictly academic purposes, does the data from the most well conducted studies support the claim that these are the BEST ways to spend scarce dollars for the purpose of increasing academic outcomes for all children long-term? NO -according to a well conducted study of head-start by the US Government
NO, according to a recently conducted, well constructed study by Vanderbilt University. From that report:
"For that Intensive Substudy sample, we found that the effects of TN‐VPK on the WJ achievement measures observed at the end of the pre‐k year had greatly diminished by the end of the kindergarten year and the differences between participants and nonparticipants were no longer statistically significant. The only exception was a marginally significant difference on Passage Comprehension with nonparticipants showing higher scores at the end of the kindergarten year than TN‐VPK
participants. Similarly, at the end of first grade, there were no statistically significant differences between TN‐VPK participants and nonparticipants on the WJ measures with one exception. There was a significant difference that favored the nonparticipant group on the Quantitative Concepts subscale."
This recent Peabody study shows minimal lasting academic gains.
The few studies available that were controlled for variables show minimal student academic achievement at grade 3 and going forward for students who attended VPK programs when compared to similar student who did not attend VPK.
So why does everyone think pouring more and more money into these programs is the answer?
Because with government money flowing, the politicians and special interests of all persuasions will come lining up to the trough to feed. And if it seems like it "ought to work", well that's good enough, just like with other budget-straining ideas like making class-sizes smaller under the guise that this would improve academic outcomes.