Debunking the case for pre-K

The Rio Grande Foundation has spent considerable time recently defending those who did not support tapping the permanent fund for pre-K. Unlike most of the opponents including folks like Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur-Smith and many Republicans (who have supported increases in pre-K spending as pushed by Gov. Martinez) we at the Rio Grande Foundation do  not view pre-K as effective.

We recently worked with a national scholar named Katharine Stevens from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on an opinion piece that ran in Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal. Part of her piece is excerpted below:

While increases in children’s performance associated with attending pre-K were essentially negligible, however, the LFC report highlighted several factors found to be associated with substantial improvement in student achievement.

First among those was the quality of children’s teachers, which the LFC researchers identified as having the “most impact on a student’s academic achievement” of all school-related factors. “If students have three years of highly effective teachers, their math and reading scores can increase by 16 percent,” the researchers explained, “however if students have ineffective teachers, their scores can drop by as much as 33 percent.”

The report found, furthermore, that in schools enrolling over 90 percent low-income students more than a third of teachers are currently rated as less than effective. And it found that improving the effectiveness of children’s K-12 teachers had an impact on children’s academic proficiency exceeding that of pre-K by a large margin.

In just two years, low-performing schools participating in the “Teachers Pursuing Excellence” peer mentoring program increased the percentage of students scoring at or above proficient from about 24 percent to almost 35 percent in reading and from about 16 percent to 27 percent in math.

The bottom line is this: New Mexico’s disadvantaged children don’t need more school; they need good school. And that means schools with effective teachers who show up to teach.

Tacking additional grades onto a poorly performing school system won’t help the children who need help the most. Improving the 13 grades they already attend could help them a lot.

expanding pre-k

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3 Replies to “Debunking the case for pre-K”

  1. Public education has become too bureaucratic, too focused on test scores, too political and too unionized to provide good education to all students. I no longer have kids in school, but my friend said her kids just mainly watch movies (i don’t know what kind of movies, hopefully educational ones) and go on field trips. Teachers are told HOW and WHAT to teach, instead of letting them use their natural talent, which is what good teachers have–a real connection to kids. Classrooms are chaotic, with a lot of noise.
    Because public education has become such a closed monopoly, there is no real incentive to improve, just to expand and get more money. We need the competition of private schools. I have heard that NM spends $8 to $11 thousand/per student/year. I think classrooms have about 20 kids, that’s at least $160,000 per classroom. How much of that amount are the teachers getting? Where is all the money going? Give parents $5000 vouchers and let them pick their own schools based on performance. Of course, the government needs to allow more private schools and the Dept of Education has to give these schools a wide berth as to how they operate.
    Teachers seem to oppose more private schools (guess they like the security and generous pension plans working for the government), but I think they would make more money if there was more completion and they are good teachers.

    1. Too many “education” dollars are spent on things that do nothing to improve education, but keep developers of all types in business. Double Eagle, the elementary in my neighborhood, recently received $1 million taxpayer dollars from the recent bond. They are currently replacing their jungle gym for the 3rd time in 10 years. La Cueva is almost finished with their multi-million dollar weight room, and there are several other high schools in Albuquerque that are doing the same. There is absolutely no research that supports the idea that having fancy gyms does anything to improve education, yet Albuquerque voters said yes to the bonds that funded these things.

  2. Will they never learn? For decades we have known early childhood education helps little to not at all, and any advantage gained disappears by third grade.
    And argue for smaller class sizes.
    The most important issue, that results in improved education?
    Smaller schools (400-450, elementary; 800 middle; 1,000 high school)
    This generates parent involvement, especially when schools are populated central to their homes.
    Schools cannot and do not replace the responsibility of parents for childhood education. Remember: Education is attained in spite of the institution, not because of it.
    But we encourage more time looking at a lighted screen – injurious physically and mentally.

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