more money wasted by good intentions

The ProJo today reports that RI will begin tax funded Pre-K programs.

National studies show that low-income children already dramatically trail middle- and upper-income children in vocabulary and other school readiness measures by they time they enter kindergarten. This finding is particularly significant for Rhode Island, where nearly half the state’s 40,468 poor children live in extreme poverty, defined as a family of three with an income lower than $8,673 a year.

“We talk a lot about achievement gaps,” said Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. “But when children come to school with such widely varying levels, what we really have is a preparation gap that exists before they even start school.”

Elizabeth Burke Bryant, of Kids Count, sounds very sure of the benefits, but cites no research.

“We know that high-quality pre-K is a proven strategy for helping to close the achievement gap that appears as early as kindergarten entry,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island’s Kids Count, a nonprofit children’s advocacy organization. “We no longer want to be behind the rest of the country in terms of readiness of our children.”

Actually, this issue has been widely studied (HERE and HERE) and the results aren’t as Ms. Bryant suggests:

The Reason study says one factor behind preschools’ failure to boost educational outcomes is “fade out.” A 2006 UC Santa Barbara study found preschoolers were more prepared for kindergarten than non-preschoolers, but that those advantages faded away by the third grade and thus preschool had “limited use as a long-term strategy for improving the achievement gap.”

It’s easy to say ‘we have a problem’ and throw your money at it, but these programs have already been shown to have limited impact. So, why are we doing this?

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