Commentary

Oklahoma Universal Preschool Fail: 2009 NAEP Reading Edition

Oklahoma has the highest quality universal preschool system in the nation. Yet, the NAEP State Profile of Oklahoma shows once again that the state’s huge investment in universal preschool is not improving student achievement in 4th grade reading. It is still lower now than before universal preschool was implemented; Oklahoma scores are below the national average; and UPK in Oklahoma has not closed the achievement gap between groups of students.

  • In 2009, the average score of fourth-grade students in Oklahoma was 217. This was lower than the average score of 220 for public school students in the nation. “
  • The average score for students in Oklahoma in 2009 (217) was not significantly different from their average score in 2007 (217) and was lower than their average score in 1992 (220).
  • In 2009, the score gap between students in Oklahoma at the 75th percentile and students at the 25th percentile was 42 points. This performance gap was not significantly different from that of 1992 (41 points).
  • The percentage of students in Oklahoma who performed at or above the NAEP Proficient level was 28 percent in 2009. This percentage was not significantly different from that in 2007 (27 percent) and was not significantly different from that in 1992 (29 percent).

Universal preschool and early education have been sold as the best investment to improve public education. Yet, after more than a decade of universal preschool, Oklahoma still is below average in fourth grade reading.

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

Snell has frequently testified before the California State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies. She has authored policy studies on school finance and weighted student funding, universal preschool, school violence, charter schools, and child advocacy centers.

Snell is a frequent contributor to Reason magazine, School Reform News and Privatization Watch. Her writing has also appeared in Education Week, Edutopia, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.

Ms. Snell is also an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children's Bureau; is on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy.

Before joining Reason Foundation, Snell taught public speaking and argumentation courses at California State University, Fullerton. She earned a Master of Arts in communication from California State University, Fullerton.