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  • Oklahoma: High Marks for Pre-K Spending, Low Marks for Reading Achievement

    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.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Oklahoma: High Marks for Pre-K Spending, Low Marks for Reading Achievement

    1. Shad, Washington, DC says:


      There are multiple problems with using this data to disparage Oklahoma's pre-k program. For instance, you note that, "Since Oklahoma started its universal preschool program in 1998, children have actually experienced declines in their fourth grade reading scores." Please think temporally. The first students who participated in pre-k in 1998 would be taking their 4th grade NAEP exam in 2005. NAEP scores between 1998 and 2005 are irrelevant to measuring the effectiveness in pre-k. The only relevant scores would compare 2003 NAEP scores to 2005 scores. In that comparison, students made statistically significant gains in math scores. This aside, overall NAEP scores for an entire state do very little to indicate how much students enrolled in pre-k are learning and achieving, since not all students in Oklahoma attend pre-k. In fact, less than half of Oklahoma four year olds were enrolled in pre-k in its first year, 1998. A more accurate measure of pre-k’s effect on NAEP scores can be found in a RAND study by David Grissmer, where students who attended pre-k were compared to students who did not. This study found that high-quality, state-funded pre-k programs have a positive effect on NAEP scores. In addition, an ongoing study by Georgetown University has found that students that attended pre-k in Tulsa, Oklahoma, particularly low-income students, made gains in early reading and problem solving skills compared to their peers that did not attend pre-k. These methods of measuring gains are far more rigorous than the method of simply reading a state’s overall NAEP scores (in years that are largely irrelevant).

    2. Neil Berry, Indianol says:

      Better off just letting the little brats fend for themselves and stop funding education altogether. Then when the world of red state gray hairs need their depends changed, guess how happy all those grown up brats will be. Just save us from the likes of the GOP and scared little people from the lunatic right.

    3. Spiritof76, New Hamp says:

      Public school education infested with the pervasive influence of the NEA (teachers union)is sadly not about academic excellence for our young people. It about enriching the union with the ever-increasing membership to force higher pay without regard to any performance standard, ever-increasing benefits and stifling work rules.

      The universal preschool has everything to do to expand the employment numbers for the teachers in the union rank and collection of additional dues. They gain more political clout with higher revenues. It has nothing to do with education.

      A lot of parents buy into it because it makes them feel good. They get the service without having to pay the actual costs. They feel that the school environment is good for the kids. It acts as a babysitting service for parents.

    4. Pingback: 4K spending high: 4th grade reading scores low - Practically Speaking

    5. Barb -mn says:

      I agree with Spiritof76. Government should take no part of education as the education is below standard and makes exceptions to race. Government should have never allowed to suggest mandates on early education as it does work as free daycare. Where daycare was once a free market business, education included, parents were much more responsible to the provisions of their children, and the education their children receive, the government butted in to aid those households who work more then they want to bond with their children & destroy this business to start children at an earlier age of indoctrination.

      Taking away freedom of choice, forcing much needless financial burden to the taxpayers. Government education. Does it really qualify to adhere to the values you want your children to have?

      Government education limits the mind. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

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