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Preschool Matters Today

Let’s Keep the Juggernaut Rolling


June 5, 2009

It seems like everyone wants targeted pre-K for poor kids, now that all kids might get it. Case in point – Chester Finn’s inaccurate and exaggerated attack on those who seek a high quality education for all of America’s children in Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut. Finn builds a case for targeted programs based on errors, exaggeration, misrepresentation and logical inconsistency relying heavily on Bruce Fuller’s similarly inaccurate attack for his “facts.” Rather than putting the whole jigsaw puzzle together, he selects just a few pieces from which to draw his conclusions. Just for starters:

  • Finn exaggerates the costs of effective programs;
  • Finn claims that effects fade-out, largely because of poor primary schools. But when all of the evidence is reviewed, it is clear that fade-out is largely a myth. Preschool’s advantages decline to some extent for exactly the opposite reason, our public schools are successful in helping children who are behind catch up. Yet, preschool education effects remain substantial well into the school years in reasonably rigorous studies.
  • Large scale public programs produce long-term benefits on children’s cognitive and social development and show that ALL children benefit;
  • Finn uses studies of private child care to conclude that public programs are likely to produce negative social effects – not so;
  • Finn claims that 85% of children already get preschool or child care at age 4, so universal pre-K is unnecessary. In fact, Finn’s plan would leave middle income children behind because far fewer attend an educationally effective preschool program, yet one in 10 fail a grade and are held back and one in 10 drop out of high school. By virtue of the sheer numbers of middle income children, most of the school failure and dropout are accounted for by middle income children.
  • Targeting also leaves poor children behind.
  • Both international and state studies from Oklahoma to New Jersey show that pre-K for all can dramatically improve learning and development for most children.

This barely touches upon the many mistakes in Chester Finn’s attack on pre-K for all. For a more extensive review, see Debunking Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut.