This week, the Tulsa World proudly proclaimed:
Finally, along comes a set of national rankings which ought to make Oklahomans especially proud. The latest annual survey by the National Institute for Early Education Research shows Oklahoma leading the nation in prekindergarten enrollment. The State of Preschool 2008 showed Oklahoma in first place with 71 percent of its 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool education. This is not the first time the state has ranked first in this survey.
This clearly begs the question: Are all of those kids enrolled in Oklahoma’s prekindergarten program benefiting academically?
Since Oklahoma started its universal preschool program in 1998, children have actually experienced declines in their fourth grade reading scores. In fact, Oklahoma was the only state to see a significant score decrease in fourth grade reading since 1992. Last year, Oklahoma spent more than $118 million dollars on preschool, yet children in that state are still below the national average in reading.
Since the introduction of universal preschool in Oklahoma, the gap between low-performing students and their peers has not been reduced. The students the program was intended to help have not gained ground.
The World Concluded:
Suffice to say Tulsa and Oklahoma get A’s for effort and for achievement.
It is unclear what metric the authors are using to define the word “achievement”, but if we look to fourth grade reading abilities for a clue to the effects universal preschool is having on student learning, it’s obvious the results are less than “A” material. With early education quickly becoming a buzz word in Washington, Oklahoma serves as a good example of how not to improve student achievement.