Vanderbilt University just released a large study on the pre-school program in Tennessee. It’s an interesting study and I scrambled to find out enough about Tennessee’s program to respond intelligently to press inquiries on it.
My conclusion – Tennessee has focused on access over quality and they are showing some improvements in outcomes for kids (cutting the rate of repeating kindergarten in half, compared to kids not getting the pre-school program) but are not showing large results, nor are they retaining the results through elementary school.
This is different than the results we’re seeing from our program (ECEAP) in Washington, which shows strong results and is retaining those results through 5th grade. (WSIPP study results here.
)We can do significantly better with targeted improvements to the system.
“It’s not a universal finding — a 2014 study of Washington state’s preschool program for low-income children found that gains persisted through fifth grade.
Preschoolmatters.org: An Early Look at Early Education in Tennessee
There are important lessons for Tennessee and the nation here. If Tennessee is to get value for its pre-K dollar, it must ensure that programs are of sufficient quality. An accountability and continuous improvement system is a prerequisite for quality, as is adequate funding for those being held accountable.