Eye on Education

Longterm Benefits of Preschool Questioned

A child graduates from preschool.

Ken Colwell / Flickr

For years, early childhood education advocates have pushed to expand preschool programs nationwide. And research has been pretty resolute in touting the benefits of classroom teaching for three and four year-olds.

But the Washington Post reports a discussion this week at the Cato Institute–a Libertarian think tank–questioned how long those benefits really last.

Data from National Head Start Impact studies were at the center of the conversation.  The studies show little difference in how students performed by the end of third grade regardless of whether or not they attended preschool.

Psychology professor Deborah Phillips at Georgetown University is one of the academics raising questions.  Her research has found kids who attended preschool tend to demonstrate better gains in the short term, but that those gains fade out over time.

As debate continues about the long term payoff of the preschool investment, educators in Cincinnati hope the public will still buy-in to their push for expanding such programs around the city.






  • Bob Crum

    This is terrible!

  • mom1teacher2

    If this data is correct (& it probably is), then the problem is the teacher skills in the K – 3 programs in the public schools – NOT the preschool programs. I am a special ed teacher/reading specialist who ends up with many of these students who aren’t reading on grade level by 3rd grade. Children who really struggle with reading (often dyslexic) just aren’t “fixed” by a one- or two-year pre-school program (although it helps immensely); they need consistent, direct instruction utilizing research-based, systematic, structured, multi-sensory, cumulative, diagnostic & prescriptive, phonics-based approach such as Orton-Gillingham or an O-G-based program: Wilson, Slingerland, S.P.I.R.E., IMSE, Barton, Go Phonics, Lindamood-Bell, Spalding, Project Read, Alphabetic Phonics, or Phono-Graphix – to name a few (in no particular order). Most elementary teachers have not received ANY instruction methods for struggling readers in their university/college programs (to date), and that is where the crux of the problem exists. College education programs need to start preparing teachers for the real world – including students who need a different approach to teaching! And guess what – utilizing such an approach in the classroom helps EVERY student – especially with spelling and linguistics.

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