Friday, June 10, 2005

Frittering away early childhood ed 

The new issue of The American Experiment Quarterly is out, and I'm pleased that they've taken space to explore further the research that Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve have done on the benefits and costs of early childhood education. I had the pleasure of visiting with Art and Rob during the 2004 Winter Institute here at SCSU, where they presented their research. I consider it impressive. The AEQ editors put their research with a paper done by the Goldwater Institute's Darcy Olsen, who thinks early childhood ed research has opened the door to an unnecessary intrusion of the state into parents' homes. In a discussion they have later also in that issue, Art agrees with that. They also agree that something goes wrong when they get to K-12, that was the most fascinating part of the research.
Olsen:if the gains of these programs are realizable, if there
really is potential for these preschool combination parenting and mentoring programs to have a lasting impact on children, it is absolutely imperative that the schools they enter can sustain and build on those gains. Right now, we have a system where that is not happening. We have too many schools that are inadequate and I think that explains quite a bit of the "fade out" phenomenon. The problem may not be that the preschool programs are not good, but rather that the schools that children enter are not able to sustain those gains.
Rolnick: The research is clear: if you do a great job at getting at-risk kids ready for kindergarten and they go to dysfunctional schools, you lose all these benefits. You need some leverage in making these K-12 schools, especially in the inner city, responsive and accountable, and you�ve got to get the results.
Getting that message across to K-12 educators is vital, but given the continued push for universal, cookie-cutter E-12 programs, there's no sign that the message is being received.

UPDATE: Minnesota Education Reform News has some additional thoughts, and finds Olsen to have the more persuasive arguments.