Sorry, Senator, the ‘Scientific Evidence’ Isn’t Convincing


One of the greatest disappointments about public policy today is the Democrat-Republican consensus on “early childhood education.” The groupthink is on display in today’s edition of The Santa Fe New Mexican. Reporter Milan Simonich wrote that “Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, said he was satisfied that scientific evidence shows that early childhood education is effective,” but expressed “concerns about taking money from the [Land Grant Permanent Fund] and then making sure it would be spent properly.”

Transparency, oversight, and accountability are always desirable, of course, but the senator is wildly off the mark in believing that preschool is backed by strong data.

Despite working for the left-leaning Brookings Institution, developmental psychologist Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, who once served as the director of the Institute of Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education, finds no “evidence of program success when we look to state pre-K programs.”

In Georgia, for example, studies have yielded sobering results. One concluded that the “estimated effects of Universal Pre-K availability on test scores and grade retention are positive, but are not statistically significant, suggesting there were no discernible effects on statewide academic achievement.” Another found that “positive effects for children from low-income families … were offset by negative effects for children from higher-income families.”

We’ve known for a long time that Head Start is a failure, and state-level programs are producing similar outcomes. “Universal preschool” has an enormous price tag, and there is no “scientific evidence” demonstrating that it is a worthwhile “public investment.”

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3 Replies to “Sorry, Senator, the ‘Scientific Evidence’ Isn’t Convincing”

  1. My wife, a family practice physician, told me about a medical journal article she read that showed evidence that preschool increases the incidence of ADHD and other learning disorders.

  2. We have watched early childhood education programs (Head Start perhaps chief among them), babysitting boondoggles in the main, fail for over 30 years. Anyone making a statement they are beneficially “effective” is a liar, or stupid.
    Pulling money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund for this is unconscionable.

    I was shopping for a car years ago. It had a “coin holder” in the console; the coin holder was a $65 extra. My wife said “It would be cheaper to throw the spare change out the window.” Same thing.

    Hiring semi-literates to babysit is no better than having semi-literate parents who neither read to nor interface with their children. But at least most of the time there is opportunity for a loving, supportive relationship.

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