A new study from Texas adds weight to the argument that Indiana should find a way to provide state support for pre-kindergarten programs. The study finds that children who attended state-funded preschools scored better on standardized tests and were less likely to be retained in grade.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas, Rutgers-Camden and the Communities Foundation of Texas carried out the study, which was posted as a working paper by the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Research, or CALDER.
This is hardly the first research to find benefits from preschool programs. (See Nobel laureate James Heckman’s site for a bunch of information). But the authors note that many previous studies examined small, intensive programs, such as Perry Preschool in Michigan and the Carolina Abcedarian Project. The CALDER study looks instead at the state preschool program for at-risk children that Texas started in the 1980s. It finds that taking part in the program was associated with increased scores on the math and reading sections of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills and with a decreased likelihood of being retained or being identified as needing special education.
This is just one study, but a key point is that Texas’ program is far from a model program. The National Institute for Early Education Research gives it low marks for funding, class size and staffing ratios.
Indiana is one of 11 states that don’t provide any funding for pre-K programs. So far, Gov.-elect Mike Pence and state legislative leaders, all Republicans, have sounded ambivalent about the issue. Democrats generally support pre-K but may not trust Republicans to get it right. The CALDER study is one more piece of evidence that it’s time to try.
Bennett to Florida? Now it’s serious
Two newspapers have reported that Florida may want to hire Tony Bennett as commissioner of education now that he has lost his bid to be re-elected superintendent of public instruction in Indiana.
Pam Stewart, Florida’s interim education commissioner, spoke highly of Bennett to the Miami Herald. “He’s very focused, very driven and I think that serves, or has served, the state of Indiana very well. I think his skills are certainly transferrable and we’ll see what happens,” she said.
Right after the Nov. 6 election, Roberto Martinez, chair of the Florida Board of Education, told the Tampa Bay Times that he hoped Bennett would apply for the job.
Florida has been looking for a new education commissioner since Gerard Robinson resigned this summer. The board has said it expects to pick someone Dec. 12. Bennett chairs former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change organization and seems to have lots of boosters in the state.
As School Matters noted in August, Bennett could more than triple his salary by moving to Florida. Of course, starting in January his Indiana salary will be zero, so Florida could look even more tempting.