Top 6 Myths About Early Education: #4
MYTH #4: Successful Early Education Programs are Outliers
If you’ve been following this series, you know that we’ve covered some essential topics that dispel the distortions and distractions offered up by opponents of early childhood education. We’ve clarified not only that the achievement gap is very real, but also that early childhood education can have a measurable impact on children, all the while saving a massive sum of money for society through decreased spending on crime, remedial education, and social welfare.
Yet opponents tell us that studies that show proven, measureable impacts on children – while possibly successful in their limited form – are simply outliers in the data that should be treated with extreme caution, if not open distrust.
They argue that the studies deal with specific students, unlike a general population, or they focus on programs that are, somehow, too intensive to replicate on a national scale. While it’s valid to critique the scalability of any national policy, this myth is nothing more than a red herring, distracting from the mountains of evidence already available to assess early childhood education.
Well-documented, peer reviewed, continual research on programs across the nation has provided plenty of evidence for early education’s effectiveness.
The list is impressive.
There is Michigan’s HighScope Perry Preschool Program, North Carolina’s Abecedarian Project, Illinois’ Chicago Child-Parent Center, New Jersey’s Abbott Preschool Program, and Oklahoma’s Early Childhood Four-Year-Old Program; and this is just the start.
The National Institute for Early Learning Education (NIEER) has assembled a national compendium of information on early learning programs, listing several states that not only offer access to early learning, but that do so with lower than average costs and higher than average quality.
Georgia is near the top of the list, meeting 8 out of 10 quality benchmarks in the Rutgers’ study (which includes low teacher-child ratios and educators with bachelor’s degrees, among eight other items) with the 6th highest enrollment and 25th lowest spending among every state program in the country.
Oklahoma’s state program meets 9 of 10 quality benchmarks and enrolls a whopping 74 percent of 4-years olds in their program, according to the same NIEER study. And independent studies by Rutgers’ researchers confirm the long-term impact of the state’s early learning program.
Students enrolled in Oklahoma’s early childhood education program showed statistically significant increases in math skills, vocabulary, and reading abilities. Cynthia Lamy, and other researchers at Rutgers University who studied the Oklahama program, note that, “The effects found in this study are the first link in a chain that produces the long-term school success and economic benefits documented by preschool studies that have followed children into adulthood” (p. 12).
Early learning advocates, after sifting through the pile of studies that indicate success, have been able to tease out generalizable aspects of every one of these successful examples. They call for inclusive, regularly-assessed programs run by educators who are trained with at least a 4-year degree; the very types of standards that are to be included in serious national proposal for early childhood education.
So with little else to stand on, skeptics turn to the fifth distortion in their bag of myths: that President Obama’s proposed funding model is fatally flawed. Check in tomorrow and see where the real flaws are.
Follow Rey Fuentes on Twitter: @reynextgen