Quality v. quantity: evidence on reduced class sizes and expanded pre-k

Rep. Mimi Stewart (D-unions) has introduced legislation (HB 3) that would reduce class sizes in New Mexico (she’s also got a bill, HB 66 to reduce graduation standards). Small class sizes sound great in concept, but even the very liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) which has studied the issue and found that reducing class sizes is usually not a cost-effective route to higher student performance. Not surprisingly, CAP is not alone in noting the failure of small class sizes as public policy. The libertarian Cato Institute has come to the same conclusion, noting that:  ” in 72% of the (300) studies reviewed, there was no statistically significant effect on measurable student achievement associated with smaller classes.”

And then there is the Constitutional Amendment (SJR 12) to tap the permanent fund for a massive new pre-kindergarten program. Again, left and right agree (nationally at least) in the form of Cato and the center-left Brookings Institute, both of which are skeptical of the impact of pre-k programs in improving educational outcomes. Says Andrew Coulson of Cato,federal pre-K programs have proven ineffective for half a century and that the claims of large returns-on-investment due to pre-K stem almost exclusively from just three small-scale programs—out of hundreds of such programs operating around the nation for decades.”

Brookings researcher Grover “Russ” Whitehurst concludes that:  “They (policymakers) and the general public need to be wary of the prevailing wisdom that almost any investment in enhancing access to preschool is worthwhile. Some programs work for some children under some conditions. But, ah me, which programs, children, and conditions?”

So, if the educational basis for pre-k and smaller class sizes is not the reason for the massive push for these expansions of government, what is? Simply put, these programs massively expand both the entitlement mentality and the number of unionized teachers and administrators on the government payroll. It’s about bigger government in much the same way that ObamaCare is about growing the federal role in our daily lives (as opposed to reforming/improving health care).


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One Reply to “Quality v. quantity: evidence on reduced class sizes and expanded pre-k”

  1. Virtually every study I’ve read on Pre-K shows that by the third grade there is no academic difference between those who attended Pre-K and those who didn’t. As far as I’m concerned Pre-K is simply taspayer funded babysitting – and it needs to stop!!

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