Vanderbilt Pre-K study shocks with finding of sharply diminishing returns

This wasn't what they expected:

Not only did students who missed pre-K catch up within a year or two. But researchers found, on the whole, students who attended pre-K fell behind their peers by the time they finished third grade.

“We’re pretty stunned looking at these data and have a lot of questions about what might be going on in the later grades that doesn’t seem to be maintaining, if not accelerating, the positive gains, professor Mark Lipsey, director of the Peabody Research Institute, said in a statement.

The study (PDF here) followed more than 3,000 students — all of whom were eligible for pre-K under the existing economic guidelines and included students who were not enrolled in pre-K. Of those 3,000, 1,076, again split between pre-K enrollees and non-enrollees were given annual individual assessments. Vanderbilt said it is the first "rigorous controlled longitudinal study to be conducted on a large-scale state-funded Pre-K program," where as other studies focused on programs that were dissimilar to state pre-K.

Here's the takeaway:

The researchers concluded that TN-VPK clearly is not producing the positive effects on academic achievement in the later grades that its advocates and sponsors expected, despite relatively strong gains during the pre-k year. Though the challenges are great, the potential of pre-K to produce such effects cannot be entirely dismissed on the basis of this study. Some of the relevant considerations the researchers suggest be taken into account include:

Poverty is a strong indicator for future academic disadvantage, and there is a pressing need to find ways to boost the academic performance of children in poverty. High quality pre-K could be a vital part of the equation, but is unlikely to be sufficient by itself at even the highest quality levels.

Tennessee has done the hard work of creating a pre-K infrastructure involving large numbers of classrooms statewide and has commitment from parents and school administrators. It may be wise to work on improving the quality and consistency of the programs delivered through that infrastructure, and assessing their effects, before reaching any final conclusions about the benefits of VPK for Tennessee children.

Pre-K is not well integrated into the K-3 instructional sequence in many schools with the result that there is not always the continuity that might allow the gains made in pre-K to be sustained and further developed. For participating children, VPK is only one part of the critical K-3 learning period and greater attention may be needed to the challenge of supporting linked, cumulative learning throughout this period.

“Pre-K is a good start, but without a more coherent vision and consistent implementation of that vision, we cannot realistically expect dramatic effects,” said Farran. “Too much has been promised from one year of preschool intervention without the attention needed to the quality of experiences children have and what happens to them in K-12. There is much work to be done.”

Sep 28, 2015 11:38 AM

Looney staying in Williamson County

Mike Looney will remain in Williamson County, turning down a more lucrative contract from Metro.

My family and I are humbled by the support and prayers we have received over the past few weeks.

The support from the Williamson County community, including parents, former parents, students, Williamson Inc. and the business community, and Williamson County Schools employees has been overwhelming. I also appreciate the support of the Williamson County School Board members who have worked with County Mayor Rogers Anderson and Williamson County Commissioners.

I want to thank the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Board of Education for allowing me to get to know them and for allowing me to explore the opportunity of working for boys and girls in Nashville. I was impressed with the warm reception I received. It is evident the Board’s focus is on student success, and I am encouraged about the future of MNPS.

After careful consideration, I have made the decision to remain in Williamson County Schools in order to continue our journey to becoming a district recognized nationally in the academics, athletics, and the arts.

Jul 24, 2015 8:19 AM

School names new interim, has some procedural problems

The school board, as sort-of expected, rescinded its appointment of Jay Steele as interim superintendent and appointed Chris Henson in his place, and did so with some procedural mess-making.

Jul 1, 2015 12:53 PM

School board elevates Steele to interim superintendent

With no discussion, the Metro Nashville School Board responsible for 87,000 students and nearly 11,000 employees on Tuesday night promoted an officer deemed unqualified to run the school system to the district's top job.

The School Board voted 5-4 to promote Chief Academic Officer Jay Steele to director of schools. The move is effective July 1, after the month-end retirement of current Director Jesse Register.

The interim position does not disqualify Steele from going after for the job on a permanent basis, according to several members of the board who voted for him. Steele had applied to become a permanent replacement, but was told by officials with Chicago-based search firm Hazard Young Attea and Associates they would not recommend he make the first cut of candidates due to lack of experience, he said. Board members say that, depending on who appears on a short list of candidates set to be unveiled July 6, there could be room to consider Steele.

Steele, credited for growing the career academies program in Metro high schools, said he is still interested in the director job on a permanent basis and was surprised the board voted him in as interim leader on Tuesday.

“I was not asked to be the interim. But I am humbled by the board members who voted for me tonight and I’ll serve them and this district the best I can,” he said after the meeting.

Jun 24, 2015 7:00 AM

In this together

ESA's Mark Claypool feels private sector, public education can partner to produce positive results
Jun 21, 2015 10:20 AM
 | Subscriber Only Content

Scaling the coding academies

Collaboration between Griffin Technology, Metro high school showcases power of programming partnerships
Jun 21, 2015 8:00 AM
 | Subscriber Only Content

School board's Kim criticized for non-recusal on TFA votes

An East Nashville parents' group wonders why Elissa Kim — a vice president for Teach for America — isn't recusing herself from votes on charter contracts that include intents to use TFA for teacher recruitment. Metro Legal, for what it's worth, says it's not a violation.

Jun 18, 2015 7:18 AM

School board sees Council fireworks, raises

Maybe the real show last night was on Bransford:

Tuesday night’s school board meeting left Board Member Amy Frogge declaring the board can’t have meaningful conversations because it’s “spun” in favor of charters, and Will Pinkston saying any faith he had in Chairwoman Sharon Gentry’s leadership has evaporated. On the other side, it’s left charter advocates Elissa Kim grasping for straws to keep the conversation about policy and Mary Pierce unable to see a path forward.

“It’s pretty evident with this current makeup we’re not going to move forward on the board in discussing and creating a thoughtful plan for charter growth and how to implement them in our district,” Pierce said after the meeting.

Jun 10, 2015 8:17 AM

Dean's post-mayoral education endeavor gets charter champ as leader

Justin Testerman, the COO of the Tennessee Charter School Center, will be the co-CEO of Project Rennaissance, Karl Dean's post-mayoral nonprofit that isn't supposed to be exclusively focused on charter school expansion but has hired a lot of pro-charter people.

Testerman isn’t the only one leaving the Charter School Center, according to a letter to charter school leaders from DeLoache and fellow center board member Pitt Hyde. CEO Greg Thompson is also leaving the center for a leadership role at Pyramid Peak Foundation, a Memphis philanthropic organization supporting education reform, they said.

May 29, 2015 1:09 PM

In Charge 2015: Education

Mar 8, 2015 11:56 AM