October 2018 – After studying correlations between pre-K programs and their measurable impact on student achievement, Dr. Russ Whitehurst of the Brookings Institute believes any evidence of positive impact is weak. Touted as an opportunity for all children to succeed in both school and life despite economic disparities, the bipartisan push to increase access to government-funded pre-K is not the most cost-effective way to ensure student success, according to Whitehurst.
Using data from 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017, Whitehurst analyzed state pre-K enrollment and corresponding National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for five separate cohort groups. The correlations he discovered and documented at length between these state-enrolled pre-K students and their subsequent, unadjusted 4th-grade NAEP scores were close to zero for reading and slightly negative for math. Therefore, Whitehurst thinks it is unwise for America’s education system to place nearly all its proverbial eggs in the one basket of government-funded pre-K as a means to ensure long-term student success.