Dan Walters cites a recent Vanderbilt study that questions the effectiveness of Tennessee’s preschool program. However, he misses the forest for the trees in focusing only on this study (“Does early education truly help?”; Oct. 7).
Yes, quality early education makes a difference, and there is vast research to prove it. Gov. Jerry Brown should sign Assembly Bill 47 to expand preschool in California.
The Vanderbilt study is just one study on one program in one state, and it is inconsistent with broad evidence that is much more positive and that shows the critical need for quality in both preschool and the early elementary grades to foster the lasting benefits that we all want to see for our kids.
Many other studies, in New Jersey, Oklahoma, Michigan and Georgia, demonstrate significant and sustained gains, particularly for the children who need it most. One newly released study finds that low-income Latino children who attended preschool entered kindergarten ready to learn and continued to do well academically through third grade.
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Not only is Walters myopic in focus, he also fails to acknowledge serious issues with the Tennessee study. In a New York Times column last week, expert David Kirp noted that the Tennessee preschool program lacks in quality and isn’t aligned with early elementary grades.
We have made significant strides in ensuring greater quality and consistency for California’s children in our preschool program. Investments by First Five commissions, federal funds and state funds for quality improvement have resulted in a common understanding of quality.
If more children have access to high-quality preschool, we will see fewer students held back, fewer put in special education, fewer dropping out and more going to college, as well as less crime and a stronger workforce.
We should see Tennessee as a call for quality, not to cut off funding. Preschool, when done right, works.
Deborah Kong is the president of Early Edge California, an early childhood education advocacy group with offices in Oakland and Los Angeles.