In case you were wondering whether the editorial and news divisions really are separate at a newspaper, the Wall Street Journal gave us a case study over the last week by running two pieces – one opinion, one news – about early childhood education. Chronologically:
Opinion: “Protect our Kids from Preschool” by Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell, August 22, 2008.
The authors ask: “But is strapping a backpack on all 4-year-olds and sending them to preschool good for them?” Their answer: “Not according to available evidence.”
Preschool activists at the Pew Charitable Trust and Pre-K Now — two major organizations pushing universal preschool — refuse to take this evidence seriously. The private preschool market, they insist, is just glorified day care. Not so with quality, government-funded preschools with credentialed teachers and standardized curriculum. But the results from Oklahoma and Georgia — both of which implemented universal preschool a decade or more ago — paint an equally dismal picture.
A 2006 analysis by Education Week found that Oklahoma and Georgia were among the 10 states that had made the least progress on NAEP. Oklahoma, in fact, lost ground after it embraced universal preschool: In 1992 its fourth and eighth graders tested one point above the national average in math. Now they are several points below. Ditto for reading. Georgia’s universal preschool program has made virtually no difference to its fourth-grade reading scores. And a study of Tennessee’s preschool program released just this week by the nonpartisan Strategic Research Group found no statistical difference in the performance of preschool versus nonpreschool kids on any subject after the first grade. (Emphasis mine)
Hm. That’s funny, I seem to recall reading in Science about Bill Gormley’s study (oh, and talking with him) and learning that “children who participated in a state-funded preschool program in Tulsa, Okla., saw gains of nine months in prereading skills, seven months in prewriting skills and five months in premath skills, relative to their peers” (emphasis mine).
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