We’re justifiably proud of our extensive preschool programs in New Jersey. Out-going Education Commissioner Lucille Davy has labeled preschool availability to poor children the “game-changer,” and accepted wisdom is that if you offer full-day preschool services, long-term academic achievement follows. However, a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Head Start Impact Study,” finds that while student achievement increases in kindergarten for children who receive preschool services, “the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole.”
What does that mean for N.J.’s assumption that preschool makes all the difference in long-term academic achievement for children? Are we backing a flawed strategy?