Early Childhood education: lessons from Georgia and Oklahoma for New Mexico

With New Mexico legislators considering a Constitutional amendment that would tap New Mexico’s permanent fund in order to expand early childhood education and President Obama having mentioned the issue in his recent State of the Union address, the debate over early childhood education and it’s effectiveness is heating up.

Heritage Foundation has a very detailed report outlining the situations in both Georgia and Oklahoma. According to the section on Georgia:

The experiences in Georgia suggest that univer­sal preschool has not corresponded with dramatic improvement in students’ academic achievement. After years of universal preschool, fourth-graders in Georgia have seen only a seven-point overall gain in reading. By contrast, Florida’s fourth-grade students achieved the greatest gains–15 points between 1992 and 2007. In 1992, a year before the Georgia Pre-K program was established, Georgia fourth-graders were three points below the national aver­age of 215. By 2007, fourth-grade reading scores had risen just 7 points to 219, still lagging behind the national average of 220.

In terms of Oklahoma, the report concludes:

In Oklahoma, (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores have declined since the state began offering universal preschool in 1998. Okla­homa was the only state to see a significant score decrease on the NAEP fourth-grade reading assessment and is the only state to see its reading scores decline over the 15 years from 1992 though 2007 out of all of the states that participated in the fourth-grade reading test in 1992.

And, while slightly more taking a slightly more positive viewpoint regarding early childhood education, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post explained that Obama was fibbing (or at least dramatically stretching the truth) when he cited studies of the effectiveness of early childhood education in these two states as justification for his proposal to expand them at the federal level.