Pre-K doing little to benefit kids

Published: March 25, 2013
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Regarding “Pre-K worth, affordability ripe for timely discussion” (Our Views, March 19): A good place to start for the early education conversation in Oklahoma is revisiting the widespread belief that the state's prekindergarten system produces good results in return for the tax money it consumes.

Since Oklahoma has instituted its supposedly “high-quality” state prekindergarten program, achievement by its students has declined. On the nation's most respected test, the NAEP, Oklahoma fourth-graders have moved from being near the national average in math and above it in reading to being substantially below the national average in both. This same decline in learning occurs, and even more, for African-American kids in Oklahoma, who in greater percentages are usually put in or targeted for pre-k.

Fourth grade is the closest we can get to a measure of kids' preschool experience. What we see isn't a revitalized system of education where more needy kids learn more and thus close achievement gaps, but an education system where the expense of pre-k, despite what we hear from its confident advocates, has done little to benefit kids. These same results have occurred in every large-scale, government preschool program. When will the evidence encourage people to stop pretending this is a solution to the real problem, which is the increasing numbers of parents who think so little of their children they don't teach daunting pre-k skills such as colors and the A-B-C song?

Joy Pullmann, Chicago, Ill.

Pullman is education research fellow at the Heartland Institute in Chicago.