Gov. Newsom’s Claims on Benefits of Full-Time Kindergarten Rebuked by Studies

shocked-kid-apGov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2019-20 budget includes $750 million in new funding to help school districts shift from part-time to full-day kindergarten. Presently, 30 percent of districts only offer part-time kindergarten, as is allowed under state law, which provides such districts the same per-pupil funding as districts with full-day kindergarten.

In interviews, Newsom has depicted the shift and his other proposals to beef up early childhood education as the sort of obvious ways to improve public schools that are within reach because of the state’s improved fiscal health. Assembly Budget Committee Chair Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Democrats in the Legislature “absolute agree” that full-day kindergarten should be a state priority. Other education stakeholders, especially teachers unions, agree.

But as debate over Newsom’s proposal ramps up, advocates of full-day kindergarten will be asked to explain why claims about its effectiveness are not corroborated by the strong majority of academic studies of such programs in California and elsewhere.

A 2009 Public Policy Institute of California study found that while parents and educators are enthusiastic about full-day kindergarten, “research to date … has provided little evidence of long-term academic benefits beyond kindergarten or first grade.” This was backed up by a peer-reviewed 2012 study of some kindergartners’ results in California standardized tests.

The single study that appears to have been based on the most data – a RAND think tank analysis of the academic performance of nearly 8,000 kindergarten students in the 1998-99 school year – was even more downbeat. While RAND offered some qualifications, it said that overall, its research “reinforces the findings of earlier studies that suggest full-day kindergarten programs may not enhance achievement in the long term. Furthermore, this study raises the possibility that full-day kindergarten programs may actually be detrimental to mathematics performance and to nonacademic readiness skills.” The latter is a reference to students’ willingness to take instruction and participate constructively in class.

Duke study one of many to find initial benefits fade

These conclusions were supported by a peer-reviewed study released in 2010 by Duke University researchers. It found that initial benefits from attending full-day kindergarten “disappeared” by third grade and that “children may not have as positive an attitude toward school in full-day versus half-day kindergarten and may experience more behavior problems.”

However, on its website, the National Education Association depicts the benefits of full-day kindergarten as largely beyond challenge. An “advocacy guide” cites reporting by Deborah Viadero of Education Week showing that a study of 17,000 students in Philadelphia had found enduring gains from full-day kindergarten. But Viadero has also reported on other studies that reflect the phenomenon cited by other researchers of initial gains by kindergartners disappearing in subsequent years.

The NEA also cites research by the San Francisco-based WestEd advocacy group, in particular a 2005 policy brief that doesn’t refer to or offer counterarguments to any of the studies that raise doubts about whether the benefits of full-time kindergarten endure.

More recently, in 2014, the New America Foundation – which, like WestEd, has long called for greater investment in public schools – touted a study by Chloe R. Gibbs at the University of Virginia that the foundation called the “best research yet on the effects of full-day kindergarten.” New America said the study “holds some preliminary good news for proponents of full-day kindergarten.”

But the New America account of the study went on to note that it was too soon to conclude whether the initial gains identified by Gibbs would last – the central issue raised by most previous academic research.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog

Gov. Newsom Wants to Expand a Dubious Universal Preschool Plan

shocked-kid-apCalifornia’s new Governor Gavin Newsom envisions a future where the state will be involved in your children’s lives from conception to adulthood. Newsom told EdSource in September, “Our role begins when babies are still in the womb and it doesn’t end until we’ve done all we can to prepare them for a quality job and successful career.

Newsom refers to his nanny-state-on-steroids plan as the “California Promise.” If his massive scheme is realized, the only certain promise is that even higher taxes are in store for a state that has already been accurately dubbed as Taxifornia. Particularly pernicious is his idea for universal preschool for 4-year-olds. And that ball is already rolling, as Sacramento Assemblyman Kevin McCarty introduced three bills in December that would expand preschool to allow more 3- and 4-year-olds to attend.

There are many problems here. First off, the failing k-12 system in the formerly Golden State is not exactly an enticement to send your kids off for yet another year of subpar education. Our latest NAEP (nation’s report card) scores are pathetic. On the 2017 test, we were near the bottom nationally, with 69 percent of 4th grade students not proficient in both math and reading.

And just what kind of track record does preschool have? A pretty bad one, in fact. Study after study has shown it is an extraordinary waste of money. The last great push for universal pre-k in California – renamed transitional kindergarten (TK) – went down to defeat in 2014. At the time, I wrote that pre-k accomplishes little more than adding unionized teaching and educational support jobs to the state’s payroll – a state that is already over a trillion dollars in debt. Oh, sure, the sales pitch sounds great. As State Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg said, “Expanding transitional kindergarten can be accomplished with just a fraction of increased Proposition 98 funds while saving billions of dollars in the long run by reducing the extra costs of special education, grade retention and juvenile crime.”

In fact, the U.S. has a near 50-year history of funding early-childhood programs in the form of Head Start. The federal government released the last of a three-part longitudinal study of the $8 billion-a-year program in 2012, and the results offered little cause for jubilation. According to the report’s executive summary: “…there was little evidence of systematic differences in children’s elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.” The 2012 report reinforced some disappointing findings from the study’s second phase, which showed that any gains “had faded considerably by the end of 1st grade, with Head Start children showing an edge only in learning vocabulary over their peers in the control group who had not participated in Head Start.”

Other studies purporting to show preschool’s benefits also have failed to prove that spending billions on pre-k would be money well spent. Two oft-cited studies, the famous Abecedarian and Perry Preschool projects, for example, are now nearly 50 years old and involved no more than 60 children. As American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray wrote in 2013, both studies “were overseen by the same committed, well-intentioned people who conducted the demonstration projects. Evaluations of social programs are built around lots of judgment calls—from deciding how the research is designed to figuring out how to analyze the data. People with a vested interest in the results shouldn’t be put in the position of making those judgments.”

Also in 2013, the Brookings Institution’s Grover J. Whitehurst wrote, the group that went through the Tennessee Voluntary State Pre-K Program, a full day program for 4‐year‐olds from low-income families “performed somewhat less well on cognitive tasks at the end of first grade than the control group, even though [three-quarters] of the children in the control group had no experience as 4-year-olds in a center-based early childhood program.” Whitehurst concludes: “Until the field of early education becomes evidence based, it will be doomed to cycles of fad and fancy.”

Just last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel rolled out a $175 million plan to offer pre-k to all 4-year-olds by 2021-22. Commenting on the proposal, education scholars Lance Izumi and Kerry McDonald write that its proponents “often cite the results of an earlier effort, the Chicago Child-Parent Center program for low-income children, to bolster their case for universal preschool.” But it turns out that the Chicago Child-Parent Center program “relied on extensive parent training, a feature notably absent from universal preschool proposals such as Assemblyman McCarty’s in California.”

Izumi and McDonald add, “As psychologist Dr. Michael Thompson of Children’s Hospital in New Orleans noted, if policymakers mistakenly believe that preschool results in better life outcomes, “they may mistakenly invest in these programs when the money might be better invested in parenting-skill programs or other interventions to increase parental involvement.”

Clearly voluntary parental skills programs show much more promise than Newsom’s unproven universal pre-k plan. California’s new state budget will be released soon. Have the smelling salts nearby.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom Wants to Spend $2 billion on Early Childhood Education

School-education-learning-1750587-hSeeking to frame his new administration as one with a firm focus on closing the gap between children from affluent and poor families, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom will propose spending some $1.8 billion on an array of programs designed to boost California’s enrollment in early education and child-care programs.

Newsom’s plan, which he hinted at in a Fresno event last month, will be a key element in the state budget proposal he will submit to the Legislature shortly after taking office Monday, a source close to the governor-elect’s transition team said Tuesday.

The spending would boost programs designed to ensure children enter kindergarten prepared to learn, closing what some researchers have called the “readiness gap” that exists based on a family’s income. It would also phase in an expansion of prekindergarten and offer money to help school districts that don’t have facilities for full-day kindergarten. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

California Can’t Afford ‘Pre-K for All’ Plan

560px-School-education-learning-1750587-hWith their grip on state politics stronger than ever, Sacramento Democrats are champing at the bit to chase after their base’s dream of so-called “universal pre-K.”

The unwisdom of the scheme, however, is already taking its toll on its plausibility. While the sheer weight of facts will nudge officials toward a more prudent course, it’s important for Californians to recognize in advance that the plan isn’t right for the state.

To begin with, there’s the cost. Already, taxpayers are spending over $1 billion to fund preschool for 175,000 kids. Legislation introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, to expand preschool coverage to 100,000 additional children could cost up to $1.5 billion, according to EdSource.

The more the programs expand, Californians can rest assured, the more their expenses will expand along with them. Seven years ago, general fund appropriations clocked in close to $80 billion. This year, they’re almost $140 billion. Meanwhile, McCarty alone is at the ready with several more big-spending education bills — one to increase pay for public preschool teachers, and another to put $500 million in new school bonds before voters. …

Click here to read the full article from the Southern California News Group 

New Report on California Education System Offers Downbeat Findings in Four Areas

Charter schoolIn 2007, researchers associated with Stanford University released “Getting Down to Facts” – a massive compilation of studies of the California K-12 public school system. The hundreds of pages of voluminous research allowed both the state education establishment and its critics to pick and choose what conclusions to emphasize.

Democrats and teachers unions cited the omnibus report’s call for much greater school spending. Reformers noted it said extra funding should be contingent on adoption of evidence-driven reforms.

Now “Getting Down to Facts II,” again led by Stanford-associated researchers, has been released – to much the same reaction. Education leaders cite its call for a huge 32 percent increase in school spending. Reformers note that once again, experts say California hasn’t done nearly enough to use education “best practices” to improve the performance of poor Latino and African-American students and schools in general.

But those who delve past general statements that praise the “boldness” of the California Dashboard school evaluation program and the success of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in getting more funds to needy poor schools will find a series of downbeat assessments.

Lack of ‘coherence’ found in implementing key reform

Four major examples:

– A series of research briefs about school governance broadly questions key LCFF elements, citing a lack of “coherence” in how the state expects individual districts to come up with their own unique “Local Control Accountability Plans” to improve their schools. This echoes criticism in a 2017 study that found local districts lacked the resources, expertise and enthusiasm to comply with this requirement. The briefs also said the state does not have adequate “mechanisms for accountability” in evaluating how local districts have used LCFF funds meant to help disadvantaged students.

– One study faulted the state for committing to help struggling schools in minority neighborhoods by increasing funding, but not addressing the frequency with which these schools were staffed with “early career” teachers – i.e., those who were just entering the job market or who had failed to win tenure in other districts. This also parallels one of the most common long-term criticisms of California public education: that too few of the most skilled, experienced teachers ended up in the districts that needed them most.

– One brief expressed borderline astonishment that California did not use data on student and teacher performance that would allow principals, superintendents, school boards and state education officials to develop a statistical model of what school practices worked best. These “weaknesses could be readily solved,” authors noted. In a seeming reference to political battles over data-driven reform, the report’s executive summary notes that “the limitations of California’s data system are not the result of technological difficulties.”

– An analysis of school finances cited the punishing effect of the 2014 bailout of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System on school budgets, which on a phased-in basis requires that districts increase by 123 percent how much they contribute to CalSTRS per teacher in a six-year span from the 2014-15 to 2020-21 school years. But while this was familiar turf, other parts of the fiscal analysis were not. The analysis warned of the ballooning costs of special education programs and the certainty that eventually districts will have to somehow find a way to pay for billions of dollars in neglected infrastructure and maintenance.

As CalWatchdog reported in 2015, school districts were already so stressed by money headaches that they were using the proceeds from 30-year bonds for needs normally covered by district operating budgets, such as computers and teaching materials. And that came in only the first year of rising pension bills because of the Legislature’s 2014 move to shore up CalSTRS.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California school spending grows at fastest pace in the U.S.

School union protestFew monetary issues draw more emotion or scrutiny than the ups and downs of government’s educational expenses.

This year, the heated “invest in our kids” debate has rattled state capitols across the nation as teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona walked out of classrooms and headed to picket lines and rallies to protest low wages.

All this labor turmoil comes as California schools have been enjoying nation-leading increases in “elementary/secondary” educational spending, according to new Census Bureau data.

This report by a relatively independent arbiter — covering up to 2016 spending patterns nationwide — gives a glimpse into how California public school budgets compare with nationwide trends. It tallies taxpayer funds going to everything from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and includes charter schools if they’re school-district-funded. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

New bill would require fire inspections at home schools

The case of the Riverside County couple accused of torturing their 13 children has sparked legislation to increase oversight of home schools.

Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside) has proposed a bill that would require local fire departments to conduct annual inspections of all registered home schools.

Medina said in a statement that his measure would “provide the oversight needed to protect students and their rights.”

The Home School Association of California opposes the bill.

Debbie Schwarzer, an attorney with the organization, says the bill constitutes an invasion of privacy. She also says it doesn’t provide any guidance for what home inspections would cover. …

Click here to read the full article from KPCC

Judge’s order could expose 10M California schoolkids’ personal info

As reported by Fox News:

A federal judge’s order earlier this month that California public schools turn a trove of personal information on millions of children over to two nonprofits has parents worried and privacy rights advocates outraged.

The nonprofits, who advocate for special needs kids, say they need the info to gauge compliance with federal law, but critics don’t believe Social Security numbers, home addresses and other sensitive records should be included. The ruling by Judge Kimberly Mueller of the Eastern District of California, applies to all students enrolled in Golden State public schools at any time since 2008, a number estimated at 10 million.

“People are confused, worried and angry,” said Bill Ainsworth, a spokesman for the California Department of Education.

The order from Mueller, who sits in Sacramento, stems from a 2012 lawsuit filed by …

Click here to read the full article