WASHINGTON – Today, Vanderbilt University released the results of a 5-year study on Tennessee’s voluntary preschool program, which finds that children who attend preschool arrive at kindergarten with significant gains but they diminish by third grade. The study, which bucks an ever-growing trend of research showing the lasting, positive effects early learning has on children, points to a lack of quality in the implementation of Tennessee’s program and calls into question the effectiveness of the state’s K-3 instruction.
“The Tennessee study provides an important lesson,” said Kris Perry, Executive Director of First Five Years Fund. “Good intentions aren’t good enough when it comes to implementing and funding programs. Fortunately, the study’s authors point to how their program can be improved. It’s clear they need uniform quality across their preschool programs as well as improved instruction from kindergarten to third grade, where gains made in preschool are lost.”
The results of the Vanderbilt University Study on Tennessee’s preschool program are unique to Tennessee and by no means diminish the promise of better academic and life success for disadvantaged children who receive quality preschool. The study’s authors repeatedly point out that quality matters, and that Tennessee has a long way to go to improve quality in its preschool and K-3 education.
Studies of high-quality preschool programs in other states show they consistently produce results such as school readiness, higher achievement, and reducing the need for special and remedial education. For example, a study of Tulsa’s Pre-K program showed that children who attended Tulsa’s preschool program demonstrated persistent education gains, better retention rates, better attitudes about school, and less absenteeism into 8th grade. Tulsa’s Pre-K program also showed gains in cognitive abilities, executive function and social skills. North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and New Jersey are other high quality programs that have delivered high quality results.
“High quality preschool programs are being replicated and scaled in states with good results,” continued Perry. “We know what works and what doesn’t. The Tennessee study adds to this body of knowledge. Fortunately, Tennessee now has the information it needs to improve its program and its outcomes.”
The First Five Years Fund helps America achieve better results in education, health and economic productivity through investments in quality early childhood education programs for disadvantaged children. FFYF provides knowledge, data, and advocacy – persuading federal policymakers to make investments in the first five years of a child’s life that create greater returns for all. www.ffyf.org