Nicholas Kristoph Examines the Debate on Universal Pre-K!

Dear Commons Community,

In the New York Times today, columnist Nicholas Kristoph weighs the pros and cons of universal pre-K and concludes that the United States is far behind other industrialized countries.  Kristoph starts by echoing President Obama who commented at the State of the Union Address that  “Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.”  Preschool may also be the only issue on which Republicans and Democrats agree: . A poll last year found that 60 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats support expansion of prekindergarten.

Kristoph reviews the research on preschool education.  He dismisses the Head Start Impact Study that concluded its educational gains fade away. “By third grade, when the research [Impact Study] ended, there was little detectable difference between those assigned to Head Start and those in control groups.”

He then reviews other studies that looked beyond cognitive gains at long-term improvements in life outcomes such as arrest rates and high school graduation rates.

“Other researchers have, and their findings are almost unanimous. One rigorous study led by Eliana Garces, then of U.C.L.A., found that Head Start graduates were more likely to graduate from high school and attend college than their peers. David Deming of Harvard found that children who attended Head Start were more likely to graduate from high school and less likely as young adults to be “idle” — out of a job and out of school.”

He also mentions the “sleeper effect” that children maybe learn self-discipline, patience or grit.

He finishes by mentioning that the United States is an outlier in early education. “We rank 28th out of 38 industrialized countries in the share of 4-year-olds in preschool. In Shanghai, with one of the top-performing school systems in the world, nearly all preschoolers participate in early education programs.”

Universal pre-K is an idea whose time has come.  We have major political voices (President Obama, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio) getting on the bandwagon.  All we have to do now is figure out how to pay for it.  (See Gail Collins’ column on financing universal pre-K.)


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