Does pre-K Work? Brookings Specialists Weigh In On America’s Early Childhood Education Debate

May 9, 2019 By CP9admin 0

Pre-kindergarten education has long generated attention from policymakers, parents, and educators seeking to create a foundation for the academic success of American children. States have taken note: In 2015, 42 states and the District of Columbia allocated $6. 2 billion in state funding to pre-K programs.

While investments in preschool are up, the research on its effectiveness and long-term benefits shows no clear consensus. Two rigorous recent studies challenged widely held beliefs on the benefits of pre-K education, and the swearing-in of a new secretary of education has reignited debates over the funding and future of early childhood education in the U. S.

Brookings experts and their peers have explored these studies, conducted their own pre-K research, and provided policy recommendations for how they think early childhood education should be addressed under the new administration. A sample of their work-and their ongoing debate over the performance and potential of pre-K- can be highlighted below.


In order to evaluate the brief – and long-term ramifications of pre-K on college student achievement, two recent research followed and measured the educational progress of kids through 1 / 3 grade. The 1st and perhaps most broadly cited record, the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K study, discovered that any early benefits from pre-K education had been short- resided. The study’s control band of children who didn’t participate in pre-K in fact surpassed the pre-K group in accomplishment by second and 1 / 3 quality.

Addressing why the analysis showed a negative effect on the sample group instead of a fade-out impact, Richard Reeves, co-director of the guts on Children and Family members, and Edward Rodrigue pointed to having less consensus in what pre-K happens to be. They mentioned that Tennessee’s “rigid, academic strategy “ could possibly be in charge of the kids in the pre-K group disengaging from college in future years.

Education specialists Andres Bustamante, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Deborah Lowe Vandell, and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff also evaluated the analysis in a Brookings weblog post that outlined explanations why they believe Education Secretary Betsy DeVos should embrace early childhood education. The authors highlighted flaws in the study’s style and offered education plan advice for the brand new administration. “ With regards to the Tennessee research, “ the wrote:

Observations revealed that 85 percent of classrooms scored less than “ good quality “ on the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R), a widely used measure of quality. Indeed, the Tennessee researchers admit that during scale up of the program “ little infrastructure for supporting professional development with teachers or overseeing what they are doing. “ It should come as no surprise that we will see muted outcomes when quality is not high. Findings like these underscore why access will not compensate for quality as we set standards for preschool settings.

The “secret to success, “ said these authors, is to follow the clear pattern of results from a number of other pre-K studies. These data, they wrote, provide the basis of their key policy recommendations: support programs that start early (from infancy to 3 years old ), support parents, and are of the highest quality.

Dale Farran and Mark Lipsey disputed Bustamante, Hirsh-Pasek, Vandell, and Golinkoff’s recommendations, writing that scaled-up pre-K programs are associated with short-term success but long-term fade- away. Farran and Lipsey recommended that a “ more technical eyesight of ‘high quality’ is certainly needed-along with an idea for attaining it. “


A task force made up of professionals from Brookings and Duke University compiled six consensus statements from an array of research on what’s known about the consequences of pre-K, and what’s missing from the existing analysis. Here’s what they determined:

1 . Economically disadvantaged and dual-language learners often knowledge better improvement from these applications than their even more advantaged peers.
2 . Not absolutely all pre-K programs effectively support early learning. The very best programs offer “ wealthy interactions” between peers and teachers through effective curricula, professional development and training for teachers, and arranged and engaging classrooms.

  1. The odds of helpful pre-K impacts are ideal when children’s activities ahead of, during, and after pre-K are collectively regarded as area of the equation for success.
  2. Convincing evidence implies that children attending a different selection of state and college district pre-K applications are more prepared for school by the end of their pre-K season than children who usually do not attend pre-K.
  3. Convincing proof on the longer-term impacts of modern scaled-up pre-K applications on educational outcomes and school improvement is sparse, precluding wide conclusions.
  4. Ongoing invention and information are required after and during pre-K to ensure continuing improvement in creating and sustaining children’s learning benefits.


Brookings professional Russ Whitehurst argues that a lot of the data on pre-K is “often weak, misleading, or irrelevant. “ Whitehurst writes that current applications and the methodology for calculating the success of the programs have to be re-examined. Nevertheless, he adds that purchase in early education should continue, and increase, even though uncertainty.

Move forward with promising concepts with a public acknowledgement of uncertainty and an approach designed to learn from error. Don’t place big and irrevocable bets on conclusions and recommendations that are far out in front of what a careful reading of the underlying evidence can support. Very few policy prescriptions are slam-dunks, even those that seem to have good research behind them. In the early education and care of children, just as in the rest of social policy, we need to be a learning society, prepared to try new approaches to address pressing problems and to learn systematically from trial and error in their implementation.

Brookings Senior Fellow Isabel Sawhill agrees that the current research on the effectiveness of pre-K is inadequate. Sawhill says it will take a generation to get answers to this kind of research, and by that time, the results may not be relevant to the contemporary environment. Despite that, she says, “ The evidence will never be air- tight. But once one adds it all up, investing in high quality pre-K looks like a good bet to me. “


Policymakers, social scientists, and the public all have a stake in the young minds of America. While current analysis may lack conclusive proof pre-K’s impact, what’s clear from the study and evaluation of Brookings professionals and others may be the dependence on additional examination to look for the interventions had a need to support the development and development of another generation.