Media Coverage of Tennessee Preschool Study

Education Week’s Early Years blog has a helpful round-up of a wide range of media coverage of the Tennessee preschool study. A few choice excerpts:

Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, whose work on the return of investment on prekindergarten has been cited eagerly by early-education advocates, has weighed in on a study that found Tennessee’s prekindergarten program didn’t help children.

“Vanderbilt University’s study of Tennessee’s Voluntary Preschool Program evaluates a low-quality early-childhood program using a flawed methodology,” Heckman said.


Writing for The Hechinger Report on Sept. 29, I [Lillian Mongeau] focused on the quality question: “Moreover, Farran and her fellow researchers did a separate study that used a commonly accepted research tool to evaluate 160 state preschool classrooms on a scale of one to seven. Only 15 percent of the classrooms they observed met the benchmark for ‘good’ or better.”


Steven Barnett, director of the Rutgers-based National Institute of Early Education Research, wrote a long, undated, post on his institute’s blog urging readers to take the study as a lesson that high quality is important in practice, not just in name.


On Oct. 3, David Kirp, in an opinion piece for The New York Times, pointed to Boston, New Jersey, North Carolina and other public programs that have seen stronger results. He urged readers to recognize the expensive nature of providing high-quality preschool. “In education, as in much of life, you get what you pay for,” Kirp wrote.

“What’s the Difference between Boston and Tennessee?”

In a word, quality. “Tennessee doesn’t have a coherent vision,” Dale Farran, a Vanderbilt professor and the Tennessee study’s co-author, told me. “Left to their own devices, each teacher is inventing pre-K on her own.”

See David Kirp’s article, Does Pre-K Make Any Difference?, in response to the recent Pre-K study in Tennessee.

Interesting Takes on the Kindergarten Social Competence Study

A new study shows that kindergarten teachers’ ratings of social competence strongly predict important adult outcomes. The study has received much attention in the popular press, including a number of thoughtful reactions:

The gist from a summary by the study’s funder, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

Overall, research findings show that teacher-rated social competence in kindergarten was a consistent and significant indicator of both positive and negative future outcomes across all major domains: education, employment, criminal justice, substance use and mental health. Study results also showed the greater the difference between students’ social competence scores in kindergarten, the more pronounced the difference in their outcomes by the age of 25. Children who scored “well”—at the higher end of the spectrum for social competence—for example, were four times more likely to obtain a college degree than children who scored “a little”—at the lower end of the spectrum.

Continue reading “Interesting Takes on the Kindergarten Social Competence Study”

“Out of the Books in Kindergarten, and Into the Sandbox”

From today’s New York Times:

As American classrooms have focused on raising test scores in math and reading, an outgrowth of the federal No Child Left Behind law and interpretations of the new Common Core standards, even the youngest students have been affected, with more formal lessons and less time in sandboxes. But these days, states from Vermont to Minnesota to Washington are again embracing play as a bedrock of kindergarten.


“People think if you do one thing you can’t do the other,” said Nell Duke, a professor of education at the University of Michigan. “It really is a false dichotomy.”

“Let the Kids Learn through Play” in the New York Times

Don’t miss Let the Kids Learn Through Play, which includes some interesting research and has been getting much attention since it appeared over the weekend.

Also, Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, includes early childhood education in his recent New York Times piece on social programs that have been shown to produce positive outcomes:

A body of research on the long-term effects of high-quality preschool programs and other early-childhood interventions, like home visits by health professionals, consistently finds that they improve a range of adult outcomes, from higher earnings to reduced crime rates. Other research has found that Head Start achieves similar results.