The Times West Virginian

Opinion

June 26, 2014

The jury is still out on merits of universal pre-K programs

West Virginia passed legislation in 2002 requiring public schools to expand access to pre-school education programs that were originally implemented in some local districts in 1983.

Since then, the state has ranked high nationally, coming in at No. 6 for pre-kindergarten enrollment for 4-year-olds, and No. 8 nationally for enrollment of 3-year-olds.

In 2013, some 16,000 West Virginia children were enrolled in pre-school programs at a cost of approximately $6,000 per student a year, or approximately $96 million a year.

Providing high-quality pre-K and rich educational opportunities to all children is paramount to their future success, said state schools Superintendent James Phares.

“Kindergarten teachers will tell you children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten ready to learn with skills that children who don’t attend pre-K have yet to develop,” Phares said in 2013. “It kick-starts learning.”

Not everyone is in agreement.

Melanie Cutright, a principal in Wood County, told lawmakers in Charleston last week that West Virginia’s strong push into pre-K education may actually be hurting kids.

Cutright was referring to the practice of including 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds in the same classroom, which she said creates an impossible environment for teachers and students since kids at that age develop at such different rates.

Parents of 5-year-olds have some expectation of their children being prepared for kindergarten the next year, she said, but with an age and developmental range so disparate, lesson planning is challenging.

“It’s difficult to make sure instruction is appropriate for a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old,” she said.

Cutright was not condemning pre-K education, but concerns about its worth — both to young children and to taxpayers — are growing.

The issue is important, because in his State of the Union address in January 2013, President Obama made a pledge for universal pre-K programs nationwide, which would cost taxpayers billions.

Obama claimed the science was settled, and that a pre-K program nationwide would go far to heal all problems with public education in America.

Lindsey Burke, an education writer for the Heritage Foundation, noted at the time:

“Georgia has had universal preschool for all 4-year-olds since 1995, yet (high school) graduation rates have failed to significantly improve. In Oklahoma, home to taxpayer-funded pre-school since 1998, graduation rates have actually declined.”

In addition, she says, universal pre-school has failed to reduce the reading achievement gap between white children and black children. The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that in Oklahoma it remains exactly the same — 22 percent.

In Georgia, white children are still posting scores about two grade levels ahead of black children, she says.

All of us in West Virginia know how important education is to unlocking the brightest future for our children. We have shown we are willing to innovate — and pay for — new ideas and programs that promise to improve the performance of our schoolkids.

But universal pre-K is a cautionary tale that deserves more study on whether it is truly as effective as its backers say it is.

For us, that jury is still out.

(Beckley) Herald-Register

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

  • Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions

    This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
    The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    July 18, 2014

  • Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year

    It’s happening again.
    It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
    But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.

    July 17, 2014

  • County honors men who gave all in helping their community

    The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
    Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
    The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.

    July 16, 2014

  • State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less

    The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
    Let’s not do that again.

    July 15, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads