UNSATISFACTORY GRADE FOR PRESCHOOL

August 16, 2004

Preschool enthusiasts have wildly oversold preschool's benefits, says Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute.

Education Department data show most American preschoolers enter school with the building blocks for achievement. A majority recognize numbers, letters and shapes. Nearly all are in good health, enthusiastic and creative, key precursors to achievement, says Olsen.

American youngsters are also competitive internationally:

  • In England, France and Spain, 90 percent of 4-year-olds attend preschool, yet American children outperform their European peers in reading, math and science.
  • Unfortunately, by 12th grade, American students drop to a "D" on the international scale.

Preschool will not solve this, says Olsen.

Improving achievement requires changing the education system, giving parents muscle through charter schools, grants and tax credits. When parents have options, schools either deliver a quality education or risk losing students to better schools, says Olsen.

Most studies report benefits from these programs:

  • A recent Manhattan Institute study shows competition from vouchers dramatically raised achievement in Florida's failing schools.
  • Likewise, new Goldwater Institute research shows that Arizona's charter- school students have higher achievement growth in math and reading.

Parents should get an "A" for a job well done with their preschoolers. The government-run education system, on the other hand, has significant room for improvement, says Olsen.

Source: Darcy Olsen, "Preschoolers are not the problem. Inferior public schools are." USA Today, August 12, 2004.

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