A report co-authored by a Northwestern University researcher finds that outcomes for children participating in “preschool for all” programs are starkly different for children from poor- versus middle- and upper-income families.

In his $75-billion “Preschool for All” initiative, President Barack Obama has called for dramatic increases in the number of 4-year-olds enrolled in quality programs nationwide.

Northwestern University researcher Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach says the study, released today by the Brookings Institution, “underscores the importance of early childhood education and benefits of providing access to preschool.”

“However, because access to free, high-quality preschool will result in many more-advantaged children switching from private to public preschool, states should carefully consider what tuition levels they set for higher-income families,” Schanzenback says.

If the programs are free, regardless of income, they are likely to divert students away from existing private programs, the researchers argue.

Top: President Obama visiting a Georgia preschool program earlier this year. Above: Kids whose mothers have more education are more likely to be in preschool.

In “The Impacts of Expanding Access to High-Quality Preschool Education,” co-authors Schanzenbach and Dartmouth College economist Elizabeth U. Cascio suggest it may be more cost-effective to design preschool programs that target those most in need while acknowledging that exposure to higher-income peers also plays an important role.

The co-authors examined the effects of children and families in universal preschool programs that were put in place in Georgia and Oklahoma in the 1990s and compared children and families in those states with others elsewhere in the country.

They found that children from disadvantaged families gained more from preschool participation than higher-income children, including gains in overall maternal quality time spent with children and modest, sustained increases in eighth grade math test scores. Conversely, the researchers found no positive impacts on student achievement among higher-income children.

Schanzenbach is associate professor in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, a faculty fellow of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research and a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

She has done research on the impact of class size on student outcomes, food stamp benefits, school reform policy and school accountability policies including the Federal No Child Left Behind Act. She is studying the impact of school policies such as school lunch and availability to recess and gym class on child obesity.

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  1. Why limt it

    Why limit it to 4 year olds. Why not setup education camps. Let each kid have their 1st year with the parents. Then send them to the education camps until they reach the age of 18. They will get 2 weeks at home 2 times a year. That way the parents can have memory time with their kids. The really smart kids will get an additional 2, 4, or 8 years of additional targeted education at the training camps.

    This seems to be the direction the elitists and Obama types want to take the country. God help us.

    1. Must be single

      OneSmartGuy obviously is not a parent, well at least not an involved father. Judging by his attitude, good thing, too.

      1. Values

        John, I can see thatn you're an "it takes a village" type of guy. You must want to let the "state" set the values for your children. Well, it looks like the public school system has done a fairly poor job of it and it is getting worse. I'm glad they have your approval.

  2. If not for the village…

    … we'd all still be hunting venison with flint-tipped spears. The "state" does not set values for my children. I set values for the "state" by who I vote for. I chose to raise my children in Evanston because this community's values were the ones I wanted for my children. The day-care moms, Barberaux School, and both D65 and D202 did a pretty fine job in helping me and their mom raise three fine citizens.

    Not all families have the advantages mine have.  I wish they did. The study provides evidence for what most parents in Evanston would place in the "duh, yeah" category.

  3. Nothing is gained if it is free

    This report suggests FREE pre-school education should ONLY be for for "disadvantaged" kids because kids from "higher-income families" don't "gain" from preschool.

    In other words, if this study's conclusion is followed, middle class kids are SOL. I'm not sure if this study defined what constitutes"disadvantaged" and "higher-income families."

    Schanzenbach came out with a study in 2011 that concluded food stamps lead to better economic and physical health. If that's the case, let's put everybody on food stamps!! Well, except "higher-income families." 

    Consider the source. 97.6% of Brookings's employees' political donations went to Democrats and described the think tank as "liberal.

    America has spent trillions on welfare programs and so many other programs aimed at the impoverished under Johnson's Great Society. Almost a half century later, the poverty rate is now worse.

    Common sense, people. It's common sense. Nothing is gained if it is free.

    1. The poverty rate is now worse?

      "America has spent trillions on welfare programs and so many other programs aimed at the impoverished under Johnson's Great Society. Almost a half century later, the poverty rate is now worse."

      Please cite your source, Al.

      Looking at this chart :  http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2010/09/us-poverty-rate-1959-to-2009.html

      The poverty rate declined dramaticaly from 1960 to 1968 ( the year that Nixon defeated Humphrey, and the Conservative war on working people was victorious)…stayed fairly flat until 1980…increased under Reagan…declined under Clinton…and increased again under Bush II.

      This is the problem I have with you Al…you seem to live in your FOX News alternate universe.

      1. Yes, the poverty rate is worse!

        Well, isn't it interesting that you provide a chart that only goes to 2009. See my first link that goes to 2012.

        America's poverty rate had been declining in the 1950s all the way up to Johnson's Great Society bill in 1965. The sharpest decline in the poverty rate occurred BEFORE Johnson's Great Society bill passed.

        In 1960, the poverty rate was about 23 percent. It had declined to about 15 percent in 1965 when Johnson's Great Society passed, earmarking billions for welfare and other social programs. It declined to the lowest point at 11 percent in 1974 and then steadily increased. The poverty rate now is 15 percent and has been at 15 percent for three years in a row – the first time since 1965. (under Obama's reign). 

        The Census Bureau put out a poverty rate index that includes government benefits and the effects of medical and work expenses on the cost of living. It is also adjusted for regional differences in housing costs. That rate in 2011 was 16.1 percent.  

        Why is it that almost every time someone disagrees with my conservative viewpoint Fox News is mentioned as the culprit. I bet you're one of those people that have a bumper sticker, warning people not to watch Fox News. Maybe if you got your news from multiple sources including America's No. 1 cable news channel you might be better informed and able to make an intellectually honest argument. Open your mind and think.






      2. 2009 is different than 2013

        YOur chart ends in 2009. Poverty is worse now in 2013. Here is a record of those receiving food stamps. Look at the spike from 2009-2013. In 2013, almost 1 in 6 are dependent on food stamps.   Qualifications for food stamps have not changed, and you need to be pretty poor to qualify.   What has changed is that more people are out of work since 2009.          Some look to the government to fix this, others look to government interventions (aka bank bailouts, subsidies to failing industries) as the problem.    However, I would not look to cutting funding to pre-school programs as a solution to any of our societal issues.   An economics professor at the University of Chicago,    James Heckman, has looked at the economic benefits of early childhood education.   His results are astounding. If you can help a child improve language and pre-academic skills at age 4, you will keep them out of costly special education programs later to help them learn to read.  Get all kids reading by 3rd grade and they are more likely to graduate high school..  Texas (and other states) use fourth grade reading scores to predict the number of jail cells they are going to need later.   It costs on average $33,000 a year for an inmate in federal prison. It costs about $3,000 a year for a preschool program.   I don't think Al would disagree with me on any of this, would you Al?   I think he is arguing that the middle class is left out of everything- the perks of receiving government bailout money when your "too big" corporation fails and the government assistance with food stamps and preschool programs.   But not to worry Al-  the middle class is ceasing to exist anyway.

        1. I agree

          Preschool programs are extremely important. I don't oppose government sponsored pre-school programs at all. I am concerned with the premise of this study that "disadvantaged" kids should only receive free access to preschool.

          With all the money pumped into D65, I can't believe it doesn't offer a foreign language curriculm for k-4 graders. Neighboring public school districts do.

          I strongly support school vouchers. Parents, especially low-middle income, should have a choice where to send their kids to school. Many can't afford private schools. Research has shown school vouchers work.

    2. ‘Smartest Kids in the World’ comparison of 3 countries and US

      PBS News Hour had a very interesting program [see below] about three American students who were sent to Korea, Finland and Poland for one or more years.  The author of the book "The Smartest Kids in the World" contrasts the education between these countries and the US.  Finland and Polish students spend 1/2  the time in school(s) that Korean students do but with equal results.  Poland is catching up with Finland and represents a better comparison with the US for economics diversity.  Finland really stands out.

      All three countries focus much less on electonic devices like IPads and devote much less time to sports.


  4. Alas, Anonymous Al

    Anonymous AL,

    I have been reading your posts for years and you do credit to the conservative cause with your well sourced and well articulated arguements. I know it seems like you're fighting an uphill battle, but I bet you have changed a few minds or at least made many pause to review their knee-jerk progressive ideas. I know you have educated me. Please keep writing. See you at the next conservative meeting at midnight under the full moon.

    I agree with school vouchers and think Evanston would be a perfect pilot program because of the diversity of income in this community. But as you know, our local politiciians take substantial money from the Teacher's union and a major change like a voucher program would never fly. An incremental approach may work. When District 65 schools fail to meet the standards, give parents at those schools a child voucher take to any private school in Evanston not to just another Distrct 65 school.

    The mere threat of competition will improve those under performing schools. Also, give parents with special needs children a voucher to find the right education enviroment for their child instead of trying to have Distrct 65 continuing to struggle to come up with hundreds of IDEP programs that fall short of expectations. Once the community sees that vouchers are working they will want them for their own children. 

    A thought experiment: If the District 65 School Board would endorsed a full voucher program for all its students would the property values in Evanston rise or fall.  My answer is property values would rise substantially but taxes would go up because we would have to build a wall around Evanston to keep all the people out.

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