The results of the randomized control trial showed that by seventh grade children who had attended the preschool program did not perform any better than children who did not attend preschool. Its findings support other similar studies, including Head Start’s 2012 Impact Study, which showed that by third grade children with and without preschool experience performed the same academically.
Forum invited scholars on the show who held different perspectives on the study’s results, yet agreed that improvements to preschool quality were needed to improve educational outcomes.
While I agree that the quality of preschools (as well as grade schools) in underserved communities generally falls short of those in more affluent communities, and that improving preschool quality should be a high priority in efforts to close the Achievement Gap, I do not believe that preschool quality alone will have the transformative impact many hope for.
I found it incredible that when Forum’s host asked guests why the benefits of preschool had faded out, not a peep was made about home life and parent involvement. I wasn’t surprised so much because of research on relationships that shows the influence early caregiver relationships have on healthy and stable development, or because of research on parent involvement that shows it may be one of the most fundamental factors affecting student achievement. No, I wasn’t surprised so much because of a lack of emphasis on what science tells us.
Instead, I was surprised by the fact that in a nation where so many of our scholars, thought leaders, and education reformers are parents themselves that no one would have pointed out how much time and energy a parent and home must invest preparing their child for kindergarten – let alone staying involved throughout grade school. Many of our most prominent proponents for education reform are parents, yet it’s rare to hear the home publically associated with kindergarten-readiness and school success when it comes to closing the Achievement Gap.
No school-based reform effort will ever turn around underperforming schools without vigorous support from the community. And, when I say community, I mean the collection of homes that feed into the underperforming schools. The people must become involved in their own reform before real and permanent change will abound.
One of my goals is for 10 Books A Home (10BH) to demonstrate just how transformative of a place the living room is. That in the living room is where the Achievement Gap will be closed. That without the living room, and millions of them, the Achievement Gap and poverty cycle will persist ad infinitum.
So, straight from the living room, I leave you with what three different 10BH parents recently reported about their children’s preschool teachers:
“The teachers were discussing my daughter and trying to rearrange her program so that she doesn't get bored because she is so far ahead of the class."
“My son’s teacher at school is always telling me that he is at the top of the class! She is constantly trying to find more challenging work for him to do.”
“The teachers told me I should skip kindergarten and send my son to first grade.”