Communities should decide whether there is a need for universal preschool and full day kindergarten.  Unfortunately there is a political agenda to push states and local communities to provide these services.  Everyone needs to ask themselves, is this good for young children? Or does this benefit the bloated bureaucratic system that tells us that we have to get 4 and 5 year olds “college and career ready” as part of the “Common Core” agenda?

Here is testimony I provided this year before the New Hampshire House Education Committee who ended up voting against HB503-FN-A:

Honorable Chair and member of the House Education Committee:

My name is Ann Marie Banfield and I am the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action. Cornerstone Action represents roughly 6,000 residents in New Hampshire.

Today I come to you opposed to SB503-FN-A, a bill establishing a commission to extend a request for proposals to provide pre-kindergarten education services to 4 year olds in New Hampshire by creating a “pay for success” partnership……

There are many concerns with offering financial incentives to a pre-school program and whether this is an effective way of improving the outcomes in reading and special education remediation services. Should the focus on improving academic outcomes and special education remediation involve a cash incentive placed on young children?

Those who’ve been advocating for universal pre-K as part of the Common Core initiative have been using similar arguments to improve academic outcomes. This has resulted in changes to the kindergarten and preschool play-based model to one that is now focused on drilling skills and test prep.

This would explain why early childhood experts are issuing warnings against this approach. The research shows that this “drill” approach to learning negatively affects the curiosity and creativity in young children. http://neatoday.org/2015/06/19/the-reading-rush-what-educators-say-about-kindergarten-reading-expectations/

This was highlighted in the article, “The Creativity Crisis” in Newsweek. The Torrance creativity test has been in use for over 50 years. Torrance scores that measure the creativity in children rose steadily until 1990 but then have continued to fall after that. The biggest and most concerning scores that declined were in the K-6 scores. http://www.newsweek.com/creativity-crisis-74665

Early childhood experts refer to this problem as “Inappropriate Early Childhood Education.” Research has shown that early formal schooling has had a negative impact on behavioral development and aggressive behavior in some children attending pre-K and kindergarten.

The Child Study Center at Yale, in a 2005 study found that three and four-year old children were being expelled more than three times as often as K-12 students. http://news.yale.edu/2005/05/17/pre-k-students-expelled-more-three-times-rate-k-12-students-0

“While early formal instruction may appear to show good test results at first, in the long term, in follow-up studies, such children have had no advantage. On the contrary, especially in the case of boys, subjection to early formal instruction increases their tendency to distance themselves from the goals of schools, and to drop out of it, either mentally or physically.”

–Lilian G. Katz, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois
http://www.toomuchtoosoon.org/school-readiness.html

There are other sources that suggest a more informal play based early education has positive outcomes that may not be apparent by third grade. How will the “independent evaluator” analyze “behavior problems” through this new bureaucratic commission? Will the independent evaluator have the credentials to make that determination?

SB503-FN-A seems to make an assumption that pre-K has or can have the kind of academic outcomes in the subject of reading.

The University of Otago reported that there are no long-term gains from teaching children to read at age five compared to age seven. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/6937462/Reading-at-five-fails-to-boost-skills.html and http://www.newshub.co.nz/nznews/late-starters-just-as-good-at-reading-research-shows-2009122118#axzz44mlg5dWm

U.S. students rank near the bottom on international tests while Finnish students score at or near the top. Yet Finland does not permit its students to attend formal school until age seven. Many students attend non-compulsory “pre-primary” school at age six. Children under age six attend daycare or remain at home with parents.

My daughter attended pre-K but had difficulty learning to read in the first few years in elementary school. Her problems did not stem from attending or not attending pre-K but instead from the inability to track words on a page and from the inability to “process” those words in the same way her peers were doing.

Providing pre-K had no positive impact on helping her to learn to read. Instead she had weekly visits to an Ophthalmologist to work on exercises for her eyes and memory. We were also told by reading specialists that as she aged, the processing problems would be corrected and they were right.

By the time she got to fourth and fifth grade, she was on her way to academic success and made the honor roll all through high school. In May she will graduate college with a nursing degree and maintained an academic merit scholarship all four years. While 25% of her peers in the nursing program dropped out in their freshman year, she was successful at completing an extremely difficult program of studies at the collegiate level.

If you are committed to helping children succeed in the academic areas then why support a new program that does nothing to address the problems many students experience when learning to read?

Here are questions you can ask yourself:
1) Should the focus be on pre-K or revisiting the Common Core Standards which many early childhood education experts have said are developmentally inappropriate for young children? http://truthinamericaneducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/joint_statement_on_core_standards.pdf

2) Is it wise to support cash for a pre-K program that could push harmful pedagogy for that age group? Or should the focus support obtaining an expert diagnosis for struggling students and then support quality programs that offer the exercises and instruction needed when a child is equipped to learn them?

3) Why not support a tuition scholarship program for young children who may need additional support? For instance, children of immigrants who need support learning the language. This allows parents to determine the quality of the program instead of a bureaucracy attempting to control all pre-school programs.
A “pay for success” program using cash incentives that is focused on academic outcomes may not be the best approach for young children who do not have the communication skills to describe harmful methods. How will an independent evaluator measure children who act out in aggressive ways if the approach to learning is developmentally inappropriate?

We currently see bureaucrats around the country dismissing concerns from early childhood experts and educators on many harmful practices in public education today. Tying a financial incentive to something that could do more damage to young children would be irresponsible. This new focus on college and career readiness for three and four-year olds should be thoroughly researched and vetted first.

Finally, there is no reference to who will be evaluating the effectiveness of this program. Who or what kind of an independent evaluator will be used to determine successful outcomes? What criteria will they use to measure success? More standardized testing added to a pre-K program?

There is no reference to independent/peer-reviewed studies that would make that determination. How can any new bureaucratic program like this have any credibility without legitimate and independent studies?
I encourage all of you to look for productive, effective and developmentally appropriate ways to improve the quality of education New Hampshire children receive in the public schools. Unfortunately I do not believe SB503-FN-A is a good way to do that.

For these reasons we encourage you to vote “Inexpedient to Legislate” on SB503-FN-A

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:

The Evidence on Universal Pre-School
Are Benefits Worth The Cost?
Historic Experimental Design Programs
Findings: These programs are not replicable on a large scale. The per-child cost of the interventions on the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian model are prohibitively high.

Contemporary Randomized Experimental Programs
Findings: The modest effects lasted only through kindergarten and showed no effects on reading and math at the end of the first or third grades. Since its inception in the 1960s, the Head Start program has continued to be an exorbitantly expensive failure. The U.S. Department of Health reported, “In the long run, the cognitive and socio-emotional test scores of former Head Start students do not remain superior to those of disadvantaged children who did not attend Head Start.”

Contemporary Non-Experimental RDD Programs
Findings: These programs were not experimental designs and are not valid because the treatment and control groups were not equal. (Page 12)
http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa760.pdf
Findings: “Because the CPC study is not comparable to widespread pre-K program in Texas, this study does not support the claim of a ‘positive return’ on taxpayers dollars due to universal pre-K.”
http://www.texaspolicy.com/library/doclib/2007-01-PB02-preK-js.pdf

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can reach her at: [email protected]