Don’t Ask if PreK Works

While the education focus of the Republican presidential candidates has mainly centered on Common Core and the role of the U.S. Department of Education, the two Democratic candidates have talked more about universal preK and how it could help erase education inequality. Their stance is supported by recent research, including a report from the Center for American Progress. As noted by Sara Mead of Bellwether Education Partners in U.S. News & World Report, though, there are also studies like the one from the American Enterprise Institute that show varying results from preschool. Mead says in her article asking whether or not prek works is pointless because the same resource, funding, and equity issues that affect K-12 classrooms impact preschool as well. Rather, the conversation should center around how to make quality programs available at scale.

“My experience working with high-quality early childhood programs has convinced me that policies matter: Adequate resources are not in themselves a guarantee of quality, but it's simply impossible to sustain real quality at the level of resources that exist in most early childhood programs today. It doesn't take research to tell us that subpoverty teacher wages and resulting high rates of turnover are not conducive to quality instruction. That's just common sense. And our current fragmented system requires providers to spend too much time navigating different funding streams and complying with a plethora of overlapping compliance and "quality" requirements that often have little to do with children's learning. Fixing this won't guarantee quality, but it can take away some of the noise that prevents providers from focusing on instruction.”

Read “The Productive Pre-K Question,” by Sara Mead, U.S. News & World Report (April 13, 2016)

AAP members can read more about the presidential candidates' views on education here.

Education Policy