So Much for This Long-Term “Investment”

One of the initiatives that Gov. Tim Kaine fought hardest for was expanded access to pre-K programs for at risk children. It was an “investment,” you see. Pre-K programs would better prepare children for Kindergarten and 1st grade. The kids would do better in elementary school, fewer would get discouraged and drop out of high school, and fewer would end up on welfare or wind up in jails. Twenty years later, taxpayers would reap the rewards in the form of lower social services costs.

What a wonderful theory. If only it were true.

The Obama administration has just issued a press release summarizing the results of a Congresionally mandated study on the impact of the 2002-2003 Head Start program. The study measured the cognitive and social development of 5,000 three- and four-year-olds assigned to Head Start and to a control group.

Here’s the good news: “The study showed that at the end of one program year, access to Head Start positively influenced children’s school readiness.”

Here’s the bad news: “When measured again at the end of kindgarten and first grade, however, the Head Start children and the control group children were at the same level on many of the measures studied.”

So much for all those savings we’ll reap down the road.

A compassionate society will never give up on finding ways to help underprivileged children live up to their full potential. But we aren’t doing the children, or the taxpayers, any favors if we continue “investing” money in programs like Head Start in the face of evidence that they don’t work. It’s time to look for new solutions.

Share this article



ADVERTISEMENT

(comments below)



ADVERTISEMENT

(comments below)


Comments

34 responses to “So Much for This Long-Term “Investment””

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    And they say that only conservatives bring religion into politics. Spending more money on children is an article of liberal faith. We need to spend money on effective programs for children.

    I've seen something similar for a comparison of full-day to half-day kindergarten.

    I have heard, and would like to know whether there are any supporting data for, the proposition that adding extra reading teachers for grades 1-3 makes a big difference in test scores and comprehension for all children, including low-income.

    TMT

  2. well I think I got called "hyper-partisan" recently but here's another point of agreement from this "progressive".

    I have no patience with the "we need more money to fix it" folks, no more or less I have with the "no mo tax" folks either.

    the point is – you have to try the programs and you have to measure them for effectiveness.

    So.. the good news.. if that we did measure and we did find out and now we need to make changes.

    There are programs that do work. There are programs in poor urban areas recently appearing on 60 minutes where the graduation rate – as well as the college-attending rate were as high or higher than some schools in much wealthier suburban areas.

    The success stories by the way are – measured by THE TEST – tests that measure the same things that are measured when the students applies for college.

    yes.. you DO TEACH TO THE TEST!

    to not do so – assures failure for most kids

    for the kids who "need" to fully "actuate" – fine… let the parents (or the system) help them but not at the expense of the majority of kids getting a decent functional, if prosaic, education.

    but here's the test for us.

    Do you REALLY WANT programs LIKE Head Start to really succeed or are you a closet supporter of hoping they – and projects like them – fail – as a proof of sorts that education cannot "solve all problems".

    There are those who work to find the right answers – but they work and there are those who work to demonstrate failure and use it as a club against the idea that "do gooders" can "only do so much".

    The mere fact that on a worldwide basis – MOST of our kids – head-start or not – rank around 15th is reading and science when compared against their international peers.

    That ought to be something that gives even the most hard-core Head Start Haters something to mull over because in the longer scheme of things.. this won't be about demographics and the moral issues – but about economic issues – a workforce that can successfully compete for world jobs – and become self-reliant, tax-paying citizens.

    That ought to be our goal – not dwelling to much on the "I told you so" dynamics of Head Start.

  3. Citizen Tom Avatar
    Citizen Tom

    Larry G – Have you have considered the matter fully? What you suggest in nice only in theory.

    1. Once it is started, how do we end a government program?

    2. Who defines success? The political process does not do a good job. When it comes to education, the service provider, not the parents, end up defining success. That is a clear conflict of interest.

    Because our parents and grandparents did not consider the possible ramifications, they sent us to government-run schools. Now we have such a socialist school system we are raising a bunch of socialists. Our children are ignorant of their nation's history and of the consequences of socialism. Too many don't even recognize socialism.

    We need School Choice. Let the free market work. Let parents decide what experiments they want performed on their children. Let parents choose who teaches their children.

  4. Citizen Tom –

    Here's my question. Our rank against our competitors is not so hot but what about our competitors?

    Are they not "socialist" schools also that are cleaning our clocks?

    How about naming a country that is primarily non-Public Schools that ranks above those "socialist" countries.

    so… the Europeans and the Asians "experiment" on their kids – who then beat the socks off our our kids academically.

    and your solution is……

    and you can cite where your approach has met with great success – which country did you say?

    Hey – I'm for what works but the anti-gov blather is not getting it.

    I'd put the same measurements on any school – public or private – perform or go away.

    I don't pay 3/4 of my property taxes every year for education to have that money given to the folks who support actions to gut the public school system – as bad as it might be in need of reform.

  5. I have to keep saying this because people do not seem to "get it".

    It's not the education for your child that is paramount in the bigger scheme of things.

    I'll allow that parents are allowed to feel that way.

    But if we don't accomplish getting kids of normal IQ educated enough to grow up and get a job….

    then YOUR Child is going to grow up in a world of more and more entitlements that he will pay for out of his salary.

    Do you know who the biggest employer in the State of Virginia is these days?

    That's right – the Department of Corrections.

    Do you know how much it costs to keep each inmate for a year?

    It's about 35K a year that's coming out of YOUR taxes.

    That's 21,570 guards looking over 57,444 non taxpayers.

    Do you know how much it costs to educate a kid – about 10K a year.

  6. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Larry, what do you want to be when you grow up?

    1st grade – I wanna be a policeman.

    3rd grade – I wanna race cars.

    6th grade – I wanna be a doctor.

    9th grade – I wanna get out of here.

    12th grade – Dude, I made 200 bucks on Craigslist today.

    I work with some of the highest technology teaching aids the Feds have to offer. You know what I regularly find when doing remote maintenance on student stations? Computer screens filled with 1st grade quality drawings done in Paint.

    Head start has as much relativity to higher education as watching re-runs of Barney on DVD. And all the technology in the world is useless if you bore the crap out of your students. How can you teach someone to design, operate or maintain a complex piece of equipment if they've already lost interest back in middle school?

    See, getting a head start isn't the cure. Getting into the heads of the students is. At the very moment that nature is turning on student self-awareness, teachers are shutting it down with outdated teaching methods. Read this, memorize that, test on Friday now get out. Then we wonder why Larry isn't learning and hates school forever.

    Here is a clip. Don't pay attention to the teacher, watch the students.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiUhoA9NTs8&feature=related

    Of course teaching isn't entertainment, but the best teachers capture students imagination and nurtures the natural curiosity that is essential to lifelong learning. Every school should have this motto over their front door as a reminder to students and teachers.

    "Know Thyself is the FIRST SOL."

  7. Thanks Darrell.. I'm not unfamiliar with what you say. I used to be a person who would rea resumes and I was shocked at the grammar and spelling of people straight out of college.

    re: being "bored" with school – don't mistake that for what it is not.

    how many people can figure out how to use a remote or get a home entertainment system to work or know how to configure their cell phone?

    All of these require an ability to read and understand manuals, some admittedly not the best and for the reader to understand technology and be comfortable with it.

    Schools are changing. I know because I talk to an educator every day… and kids are now being tested to determine where they are – and if they are behind – then step-out help given and if advanced, same deal.

    that leaves the classroom to proceed with the general content.

    The problem that we've had is that we attempted to cater to the kids who would become bored – at the expense of the ones that needed help to stay on grade level.

    We literally left children behind so that others would not become "bored".

    and as I've pointed out – helping you kid to not be bored is going to mean he's going to grow up to pay an enormous tax burden to provide help and services to those who did not receive a minimally adequate education.

    The only think I can figure out why folks don't "get this" is that they must be thinking at some point in the future their kid will become politically actively and shut down socialism and all that rot.

    In the meantime…what do the countries that clean our clocks with "socialist" schools do about their "bored" kids?

    How come we have this 'bored' kid problem – and we rank near last on reading and math?

    Is it the "bored" kids that are pulling these scores down?

    think man. think.

  8. R. Stanton Scott Avatar
    R. Stanton Scott

    May I suggest that you think critically about what studies like this say, whether or not they support your position on an issue.

    I would want to know, for example, if this study says anything about the variation in impact across socioeconomic background. A look at the data might show that less privileged kids to achieve better long-term outcomes if given a "head start." This means that instead of ending the programs we should simply focus them on the kids most likely to benefit.

    This study might also simply mean that the techniques employed in the programs studied need revision to be more effective. A study which compared techniques used in early education would probably tell us more than a simple Manichean look at whether starting early improved outcomes over starting later.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Here's the good news: "The study showed that at the end of one program year, access to Head Start positively influenced children's school readiness."

    Here's the bad news: "When measured again at the end of kindgarten and first grade, however, the Head Start children and the control group children were at the same level on many of the measures studied."

    ——————————–

    OK, so you need to fix kindergarten and first grade. You won't reap the savings later if you waste the money in between. But this doesn't say the initial investment was bad, only that the susaining investment or the maintenance is not up to par.

    RH

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Let's not kid ourselves here. The real reason we do this is so the parents can work. Especially the low wage parents.

    RH

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    "I have no patience with the "we need more money to fix it" folks, no more or less I have with the "no mo tax" folks either."

    Larry is learning. The lowest net socila cost is almst always somewhere inthe middle. All we need is more and better ways to measure.

    Measurements that are so persuasive and unassailable that even the hyperliberals and hyper concervatives have to concede their validity.

    Once we get measurements that are at least that good, we can work on refining them.

    RH

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    "Do you REALLY WANT programs LIKE Head Start to really succeed "

    I don't care if it succeeds or fails: it ought to fail if it turns out to be money wasted.

    What i really don't want is to THINK it succeeded or failed based on a failed measurement.

    RH

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    "May I suggest that you think critically about what studies like this say, whether or not they support your position on an issue."

    I second the motion, well said.

    RH

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Manichean

    Great word.

    RH

  15. fixing kindergarten and first grade –

    that would not suit the idealogical folks.. who basically want to show that govt/"socialist" schools are failures.

    so they grasp at whatever problem they see in a study… and…as you point out.. blame the problems in the 1st grade on Head Start.

    I know a first grade teacher. I talk to her every day and she knows where the problems are – and they are not in Head Start.

    1st graders who are slow readers and/or behind in reading, unless immediate intervention is taken will not improve.

    If the purpose of Head Start is to prepare kids so that they are on-grade level when they hit the first grade – then I agree.. it's not performing

    but unlike those who would cite this as a reason to kill Head Start – I would ask them – how they would propose to get the kids that are behind – up to grade level in the 1st grade?

    If you ask this question of the "kill Head Start now" brigade, they have no answers… they'll drop into blather about bad government and socialist failures an the sort.

    My question: "Are you really serious about dealing with the problem or just blaming and pronouncing failure?

    those who think allowing "choice" will fix this problem are what? are they interested in dealing with this issue?

    Nope.

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    "Are you really serious about dealing with the problem …."

    Only up to the point at which solving the problem costs more than the problems caused by not solving it.

    Suppose a kid gets a head start, but the gains he made get washed out in first and second grade.

    Now compare another kid who had no head start. If first and second grade are somehow failing the first kid, are they also failing the second?

    Probably not. You get some regression to the mean.

    I still think the thing to do is have vouchers, and let pwrents send their kids any where they want that they can afford.

    Let the schools compete for the money. If your first and second grade are not up to snuff their parents will take them elsewhere, unless your school is convenient to their job or home.

    RH

  17. how does that solution assure that the kids that are not passing first grade now will pass?

    are you proposing a solution that works?

    why would you want this solution in the first place if it works no better?

  18. If you really want to get more bang for your buck from schools keep them open longer……year around.

    Have you looked at a school calendar lately? It seems that if school is not out because of a holiday or snow day then they are closed because of a "teacher workday" or shut down because of a bomb threat…..or a riot…or a swine flu outbreak. It's insane!

    You could schedule it so that each kid might have the total of a month off each year…whatever….the fact of the matter is that 180 days a year aren't enough to get the job done for most kids.

    "The problem that we've had is that we attempted to cater to the kids who would become bored – at the expense of the ones that needed help to stay on grade level."

    Also, don't forget "special needs" kids and ESL students.

    A lot of money is spent on students that will NEVER go to college and NEVER hold a job. They are physically and mentally not capable of doing so.

    The same for ESL students. My local elementary school has an ESL population of almost 50%! Half of the kids starting Kindergarten DON'T EVEN SPEAK THE LANGUAGE.

    It's just an unfortunate truth that public school must accept any and all that walk through the doors.

    That being said, I don't have a problem with vouchers and I think competition is a good thing….But, what are you going to do with special needs and ESL kids when they want a voucher????

    To me a school that accepts vouchers would also be required to take any and all comers….just like the public schools.

  19. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    According to tests, Johnny can't read any better than his 3rd grade sister. All his classmates pay him lunch money to build their MySpace pages.

    Jimmy couldn't add 2+2, but no one dares take on his home built Honda Civic.

    Jeff failed natural science. He won first place in the science fair for his realistic drawings of tree leaves.

    Darrell skipped Algebra to play with radios. He got an A in Physics and Geography.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    But, what are you going to do with special needs and ESL kids when they want a voucher????

    You give them a voucher that is worth the same amount as the kid with exceptional abilities gets.

    IF the Parents of the kid with exceptional abilities want an exceptional school, they can pay the difference.

    Same for the parents of kids with special needs.

    Everyone likes to think THEIR kid is really bright, but if they have to foot the bill for the extra schooling they may have to re-adjust their evaluation.

    Same for parents of a kid with special needs. Faced with the realization the kid will never hold a job, they may scale back heir demands.

    Then, for those parents that cannot affod the delta costs there would be ther aid they can apply for, but it would no longer be an entitlement to get more aid than the next kid, just because your kid is exceptional.

    You have vouchers to cover basic educational needs, same for everyone. Exceptional needs are taken care of by the parents, or through separate evaluation.

    RH

    RH

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    pnoleidI was bomb in school but aced the college boards. I thought public shcools were FUBAR, and so did my father – who was a teacher. Anything I accomplished was in spite of them, not because of them.

  22. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    "I thought public shcools were FUBAR"

    And that's the point. Few would say a subject like US History was their favorite. I loved it because of an 80 something year old teacher who was born in a North Dakota sod house. She didn't teach history, she had lived it. Each textbook chapter was merely a guide to an endless line of stories brought back to life. When she died a few years later, a good part of the student body attended her service.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    Few would say a subject like US History was their favorite. I loved it because of an 80 something year old teacher who was born in a North Dakota sod house.

    ——————————–

    OK, you had one memorable teacher, out of how many?

    Mine was was a math teacher who had been a fighter pilot. He had a habit of suddenly looking over his shoulder.

    Other than his, I doubt I could recall a single name.

  24. favorite teachers – I have several but what has really had an impact is when a young deputy sheriff recognizes a 2nd grade teacher.

    this teacher was/is known throughout the school as a dispenser of hugs and they line up in the morning to get them – even kids from other classes.

    you've heard the phrase – "make a difference".

    Teachers do. Believe it.

  25. sorry was not clear. the teacher taught the deputy sheriff in the 2nd grade. He grew up… and he still remembers her and the "hug squad".

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    Teachers do make a difference. Believe it.

    ———————————-

    Sorry, I never had one, other than my father. And I was prohibited from any of his classes by the school bureaucracy.

    How stupid is that? Did they think they could prevent me from learning from him? Or were they worried that I would get an unfair grade on my "PERMANENT RECORD" You know, the one no one ever looked at again: "A nameless number on a list that was later lost"?

    I had some teachers that were memorable for being social misfits. My Jewish Spanish teacher who insisted that the Iberians, "Los Iberos" were the founding race for the Hebrews. The teacher who threw me out of his class becasue I asked his girfriend for a date. The principal who would not let me take typing because "that was for girls". The professor who flunked me because I rejected his advances.

    I learned a lot from my teachers, just not in the subject matter assigned.

    I think the whole system should be scrapped, and put on a competitive business basis. Make the students the clients and let the teachers compete for the money. I don't see any other way to end the quagmire we are in.

    I vowed when I was young that I would not have children if I had to subject them to public schools: if I could not afford to educate them properly.

    I'm still childless. I know I missed a lot, but seeing the angst my peers have been through over educaton, I don't miss much of what I missed.

    RH

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Oh yeah, then there was the professor who was teaching in six universities, but never earned a degree himself. The guy was a blatant megalomaniac. I didn't know what the word meant at the time, but I spent ten minutes in my first class with this misfit and walked out. Only class I never completed.

    Later the guy got thrown in the slammer, and i couln't figure out why it took so long.

    And this wasn't even public school: if it was, he would probably still be teaching.

    RH

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    Geez, if I tried to think back and descibe my teachers, for the most part they would be like the grotesques in "Winesburg Ohio".

    I had some real freaking lulus. And I was in a school system that had plenty of money.

    Think of all the movies you have ever seen in which the teachers were portrayed as some kind of charicature.

    Stereotypes don't get that way by accident.

    RH

  29. "And this wasn't even public school: if it was, he would probably still be teaching."

    Good Point.

    But, I had some really good teachers and some really not-so-good teachers.

    The thing is….I did poorly in some of the really good teachers classes and vice-versa.

    In other words, there wasn't much correlation between how good my teacher was and how good MY performance was.

    "I don't see any other way to end the quagmire we are in."

    Me either….but what were doing is expensive and the results are not good.

  30. " In other words, there wasn't much correlation between how good my teacher was and how good MY performance was"

    or.. the one's you liked were not doing you as much good and that's why you liked them?

    there is such a thing as a "good" teacher – believe it.

    Schools are not looking at test scores between the grades to see how much progress – a kid – and a class made.

    A good teacher – recognizes when a kid and having trouble with something.. and gets him here dedicated help BEFORE they fall further and further behind.

    There are a lot of reasons for dropouts but none more potent than the feeling that you are a failure and cannot catch up.

    Public Schools now days are complicated places with "specialists" to help kids if they are having trouble in a normal class.

    Who will help these kids in a "voucher" school?

    Remember guys.. these kids..with normal IQs… ARE going to grow up and need food, shelters, etc…

    If they get a good education that will "bore" another kid but that education gets them a job an turns them into a taxpayer – you should want that. Right?

    Otherwise, all the smart, bright kids that grow up to be scientists and engineers are going to be paying for the other kids food and shelter.

    do you want to pay me now or pay me later?

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    "…there is such a thing as a "good" teacher – believe it."

    I beleive it, but most of them are doing something else…. something that is actually lucrative, AND satisfying.

    I wouldn't mind being a teacher, but not for what they are willing to pay me.

    RH

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    Who will help these kids in a "voucher" school?

    —————————-

    The competition would be such that specialized schools would pop up to fill the need.

    Kill public education, and do it TODAY. crap the existing plan entirely and try something new. It could hardly be much worse than the zoo we operate now.

    RH

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    "…these kids..with normal IQs… ARE going to grow up and need food, shelters, etc…
    "

    And most of the voucher schools will be targeted to those kids. There will be many more of them, conveniently located, instead of mega-schools constructed as monuments to the administrative bureaucracy.

    But there will be many kinds of special scools, for those that need them: muslim schools, christian schools, music schools, vocational schools, advanced schools, basic schools.

    And each of them will be partially funded by vouchers, with the additional costs pai for by parents or other aid organizations.

    RH

  34. Anonymous Avatar

    "If they get a good education that will "bore" another kid but that education gets them a job an turns them into a taxpayer – you should want that. Right?"

    ——————————–

    There is nothing in the voucher idea that would prevent these kids from getting a useful education leading to useful jobs.

    Advanced children that wind up getting advanced and lucrative jobs will always be paying more to support the disadvantaged. Voucher schools won't add to, but they might wel subtract from, that reality.

    RH

Leave a Reply