Reported by BRYAN BABB, CONTRIBUTOR | February 02, 2022
A long-term study from Vanderbilt University found that children who attended Tennessee’s state pre-k program underperformed in the sixth grade compared to children who did not attend the program.
“Data through sixth grade from state education records showed that the children randomly assigned to attend pre-K had lower state achievement test scores in third through sixth grades than control children,” the study found. The “strongest negative effects” were found in sixth graders.
The study also found a negative effect for “disciplinary infractions, attendance, and receipt of special education services, with null effects on retention.”
The Tennessee Voluntary Prekindergarten program (TN-VPK) operates under the control of the state department of education and is used by low-income families statewide, according to Vanderbilt University. Tennessee has dumped $86 million worth of funding into the program since 2005, giving 15,000 preschoolers statewide access to the program and opening 786 new classrooms.
The study tracked 2,990 preschoolers from low-income backgrounds who applied for the oversubscribed TN-VPK, and researchers observed students who were accepted as well as rejected. This allowed the study to create a “statistically appropriate control group,” as all students came from families who wanted the children in pre-k, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The researchers also stated that there are “no distinctive characteristics of the Tennessee program have yet been identified that are a likely explanation for the disappointing findings,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
President Joe Biden, along with progressives in Congress, has also been pushing universal pre-k for all 3-and-4-year-olds as part of his administration’s Build Back Better framework. The Build Back Better Act, which was set to cost $2 trillion, was blocked in the Senate after Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin stated “this is a no on this piece of legislation,” and that he would not vote for it.
Manchin stated Tuesday that Build Back Better was “dead” and that “there is no Build Back Better bill,” the Daily Caller News Foundation reported. However, Manchin has shown support for certain elements of the bill, including universal preschool.