Fore Note: I think I've been pretty clear on my position of the state volunteer PRE-K program and just what a failure it has been. Forget about all the studies that have proven that to be the fact. If you needed the ultimate proof that the volunteer PRE-K is a is a total disaster and a waste of money, you've got it. Obama is proposing to have nation wide universal PRE-K.  That should tell you all you need to know. 

Head Start, pre-K are costly failures

By Greg Johnson

Wasn’t this supposed to be the empirical presidency? No, not “imperial presidency,” though Barack Obama’s reign has certainly been that. Didn’t Obama promise to be an empiricist, letting data derived from rigorous examination shape policy proposals?

“We’ll restore science to its rightful place,” Obama said in his 2009 inaugural address. Then, in his 2013 State of the Union speech, to not so subtly deride conservatives, Obama said, “Some may deny the overwhelming judgment of science.”

Yes, some deny science, but others ignore it. For Obama, the purportedly big believer in informed policymaking, avoided mentioning the findings of his own U.S. Department of Health and Human Services when he called for a partnership between states and the feds to expand preschool education.

“Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road,” the president said. Really? “Study after study?”

The president either denied or ignored the December report by HHS on Head Start, the preschool program formed as one of the weapons in the War on Poverty in 1965. In the almost half-century since, Congress has appropriated more than $133 billion for Head Start.

Had he read the report Obama would have learned what study after study has shown. HHS wrote, “Looking across the full study period, from the beginning of Head Start through third grade, the evidence is clear that access to Head Start improved children’s preschool outcomes across developmental domains, but had few impacts on children in kindergarten through third grade.”

As informed Tennesseans already knew, gains from preschool dissipate over time. A 2011 report by the state comptroller’s office found, “For students in grades 3-5, analyses have found either no significant effect of pre-kindergarten participation on assessment scores, or, in some cases have found that students that attended pre-K, on average, score lower than their non-Pre-K counterparts on some assessments.”

The HHS findings were similar. “No significant impacts were found for math skills, pre-writing, children’s promotion, or teacher reports of children’s school accomplishments or abilities in any year,” wrote HHS about children who started Head Start at age 4. For kids who enrolled at 3 years old, HHS wrote, “No statistically significant impacts were found for teacher reports of children’s school performance.”

Head Start, like Tennessee’s pre-K program, targets kids from economically disadvantaged homes, and, as noted here last week, economically disadvantaged children, on the whole, are less likely to exhibit proficiency in all academic areas, at all grade levels. Study after study shows Head Start and pre-K stimulate little minds but do virtually nothing, long term, to close the achievement gap. A true “scientist” would want to know why gains dissipate before spending billions.

Thank goodness Gov. Bill Haslam has gone slow on pre-K expansion, waiting for more data as a true empiricist should and so very unlike our supposedly empirical president.