A recent study released by The Peabody Research Institute of Vanderbilt University clearly demonstrates that the rush to implement government-funded universal Pre-K is likely misguided at best, and may be detrimental to youngsters at worst. The study centered around Tennessee’s voluntary Pre-K program, (TN‐VPK), which is an optional program focused on the neediest children in the state. Students participating in the TN-VPK program were matched up against students who did not attend Pre-K and the results were not in line with the narrative being perpetuated by those aggressively supporting government-funded Pre-K expansion.
Among the findings, the study carefully reviewed “the sustainability of effects on achievement and behavior beyond kindergarten entry. Children in both groups were followed and reassessed in the spring every year with over 90% of the initial sample located tested on each wave. By the end of kindergarten, the control children had caught up to the TN‐VPK children and there were no longer significant differences between them on any achievement measures. The same result was obtained at the end of first grade using both composite achievement measures.”
Much of this conclusion directly contradicts information that proponents of the government-funded Pre-K expansion have been telling the public in their expansion campaign. In addition to their unwillingness to acknowledge studies like this one, proponents have also not come up with a permanent source of funding to support their campaign.
The most concerning aspect of the study centers around a conclusion that directly conflicts with the proponent’s narrative. The study states, “In second grade, however, the groups began to diverge with the TN‐VPK children scoring lower than the control children on most of the measures. The differences were significant on both achievement composite measures and on the math subtests.”
The study affirms what the New Jersey Child Care Association has been saying in its response to this complicated issue. Mainly, that Pre-K programs should continue to be flexible and age appropriate.
Full version of the Peabody Pre-K Study