I have always felt that pre-K that consisted of my kids trying to sit still and learn something academic would have been a total waste for them. My 2 very energetic boys absolutely did not need that. This mother’s intuition is at least reflected by SOME academics. From AEI:
Research on school-based pre-K overwhelmingly focuses just on early gains in rudimentary academic skills, like recognizing letters, holding a book right-side-up, and counting small numbers.
Most so-called positive results show that kindergartners who attended pre-K are a couple of months ahead of their peers in these basic skills; in other words, children who went to pre-K know letters in September that they wouldn’t have known until, say, November if they hadn’t. But while these kinds of short-term gains in basic skills are easy to measure and look good in headlines, they aren’t what’s important.
Instead, overwhelming evidence shows that the key to children’s long-term success is a range of cognitive and noncognitive capacities like language and executive function skills, reasoning, critical thinking, problem-solving, persistence and the ability to get along well with others. Pre-K advocates claim that small gains in basic kindergarten skills lead to large gains in these essential capacities which, in turn, lead to graduating from high school and staying out of prison. But we simply have no idea if that’s true. There’s almost no rigorous research on the long-term impact of school-based pre-K. And common sense suggests that changing outcomes for at-risk children — and knowing if they’ve successfully been changed — is going to require more than raising and measuring kindergarten test scores.
So does pre-K work? We don’t know — and it’s the wrong question to be asking in the first place. Instead, the critical question is: what are the most effective early interventions for improving disadvantaged children’s lives?
I would change the question to: what are the most effective early teaching strategies for improving children’s lives? These strategies then need to be applied to preschools for all kids. Disadvantaged kids probably have special needs, as well, and those should be studied, too, but we should start at the beginning: What and how can we teach toddlers and young children to help them become happy, peaceful, productive adults?