Tuesday, May 5, 2009

'A new middle-class benefit that shortchanges the poor'

Douglas Besharov, writing in the Fall 2008 issue of Education Next:
I read the research literature to say that early education programs can probably make a marked improvement in the lives of disadvantaged children, but that we have only a partial idea of how they should be organized and managed, that is, brought to scale. As of now, there is no actual model of early education or preschool services that has been proven successful in closing the achievement gap, and any additional funding should be used to create a flexible system that can change, and improve, as more knowledge is accumulated.

It is possible that the children from middle-income families might also benefit from preschool programs. The danger is that preschool will become a new middle-class entitlement, displacing the more intensive (and extensive) efforts needed to shrink the achievement gap among severely disadvantaged children. We need separate policies for each purpose, and bundling them together is a sure recipe for a new middle-class benefit that shortchanges the poor.

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