Preschool Gains Fade by Third Grade

Yet another reason to be skeptical of giving public schools more children at a younger age based on the alleged benefits of preschool… The University of California study, parts of which will be released today at a Sacramento conference, focuses on non-English-speaking children who went to preschool. Students who had gone to preschool gained a head start on literacy and language skills that gave them a leg up through third grade, according to the study by UC Santa Barbara professor Russell Rumberger, director of the UC Linguistic Minority Research Institute. . . . By the end of third grade, according to Rumberger’s research, former preschoolers and children who did not attend preschool ended up on nearly equal footing in cognitive and social development, regardless of their mother tongue. Many studies corroborate this finding. Preschool may help some children in the early grades, but by third grade–either because developmental differences have evened out children’s achievement or because the public schools can not sustain the gains made by preschool children, all children have similar outcomes regardless of preschool education. The longer children stay in public schools the worse they do…

Lisa Snell was the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.