Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Still Flawed Research: Early Education

Wall Street Journal Early Education Commentary is Misleading Reviewer finds rehashed claims have no more merit today than two years ago

EAST LANSING, Mi., (August 25, 2008) -- Contentions in a Wall Street Journal commentary published last Friday (“Protect Our Kids from Preschool,” by Shikha Dalmia and Lisa Snell) rehash arguments Snell and her Reason Foundation colleagues made two years ago in a report that has already been rebutted in a Think Twice review of the report.

W. Steven Barnett, professor and director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, authored a review of a Reason report making many of these same arguments, explaining that Snell’s report was misleading and ignored important existing research.

The WSJ commentary weighs in on this year’s Presidential campaign and on Senator Obama’s advocacy of universal preschool. Dalmia and Snell denounce the policy as premature and lacking evidentiary support. But these contentions have no more merit today than they did two years ago. According to Professor Barnett, “the commentary makes false and misleading claims based on logical fallacies and analyses that do not meet accepted standards for scientific research while ignoring rigorous research that contradicts their assertions.” Examples of false claims are provided below.

Claim: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores have declined nationally.
Fact: NAEP scores in reading, math, and science have significantly increased since the 1970s for whites, blacks and Hispanics. A rigorous national study by RAND researchers that controls for other state characteristics and policies finds that state preschool education policies increase NAEP scores.

Claim: Fourth grade NAEP scores declined in Georgia and Oklahoma after pre-K for all was introduced.
Fact: NAEP scores in both reading and math rose in Georgia after children who attended universal pre-k reached the 4th grade test. Oklahoma has not offered pre-k to all families long enough to reliably look at the question of its effects on NAEP at fourth grade.

Claim: Research shows that Head Start's effects don't last.
Fact: Some studies report no lasting effects. Other studies, including some that are quite rigorous, find lasting effects.

Claim: Preschool education has not been found to benefit any children but the most disadvantaged.

Fact: Rigorous studies going back to the 1980s have found positive effects for children who are not economically disadvantaged, as have recent rigorous studies of state pre-K programs that are open to all children.

Two Think Twice reviews provide detailed explanations of the how Snell and others have used think tank reports to purvey misinformation about preschool education, distorting the research they do cite while dismissing and ignoring the research that contradicts their claims.

Find the complete review of the 2006 Reason report by W. Steven Barnett as well as a link to the report itself at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.

Find W. Steven Barnett’s complete review of the 2008 report by Robert Holland and Don Soifer, published by the Lexington Institute as well as a link to the report itself at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

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