The Brookings Institution has provided a new take on the widely reported Tennessee pre-K study. Christina Weiland, Daphne Bassok and Deborah A. Phillips, in their article, "What does the Tennessee pre-K study really tell us about public preschool programs?" wrote:
"The study, which examines the program’s impact through sixth grade, confirms what we already knew: The Tennessee program as it existed in 2009 and 2010 led to worse academic and behavioral outcomes than the available alternatives. Critics are asking whether large-scale investments are justifiable in preschool, and in ECE programs more broadly, given the findings of this careful experimental study.
Our read of the very large existing literature on the effects of preschool and other public investments in children’s early years leads us to conclude: Substantial investments in ECE are well supported by research, make good policy sense, and are urgently needed. This new study doesn’t change that. It does, however, drive home just how critical it is to hold the line on quality in any ECE expansion, and to continue to learn how to design programs so they best serve children, families, and society."
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Thanks for your thoughts, Rick. Farran, the study's primary author, has offered some specific conjectures to pursue in explaining the disconcerting results. Both public and private programs can learn from what comes of that, including closer examination of teacher preparation, push-down curriculum and assessment, and socio-economic factors leading to differences in children's early learning experiences.
What this study does say is that public school may not be the place for pre-school. The report does not say that all pre-school is not effective. It is a statement that public, systemic programs are perhaps not the best way to provide a pre-school experience.