Evaluation of the Tennessee Voluntary Prekindergarten Program

Mark W. Lipsey et al., Peabody Research Institute, August 10, 2013

[Editor’s Note: The state of Tennessee evaluates a program that tries prepare “the neediest children” so they can do well in kindergarten. The full report, available here, is 100 pages of tables, charts, and sociology-babble, but all you need to read are the passages quoted below. By the end of the first grade, the children who had not taken part in the program actually did better.]

TN‐VPK [Tennessee Voluntary Prekindergarten Program] is an optional program focused on the neediest children in the state. It uses a tiered admission process with children from low‐income families who apply to the program admitted first. Any remaining seats in a given location are then allocated to otherwise at‐risk children including those with disabilities and limited English proficiency.

The evaluation was funded by a grant from the U. S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (R305E090009). It was designed to determine whether the children who participate in the TN‐VPK program make greater academic and behavioral gains in areas that prepare them for later schooling than comparable children who do not participate in the program.

For that Intensive Substudy sample, we found that the effects of TN‐VPK on the WJ achievement measures [Woodcock Johnson III scales] observed at the end of the pre‐k year had greatly diminished by the end of the kindergarten year and the differences between participants and nonparticipants were no longer statistically significant. The only exception was a marginally significant difference on Passage Comprehension with nonparticipants showing higher scores at the end of the kindergarten year than TN‐VPK participants.

Similarly, at the end of first grade, there were no statistically significant differences between TN‐VPK participants and nonparticipants on the WJ measures with one exception. There was a significant difference that favored the nonparticipant group on the Quantitative Concepts subscale.

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  • JohnEngelman

    How many efforts to close the race gap need to fail before we stop wasting tax payer money on this?

    • APaige

      Head Start…No Child left behind…race to the top…tutoring…eliminating honors programs… lowering standards for honors programs…removing advanced placement courses…adding advanced placement courses…hiring black teachers…integration…

      • JohnEngelman

        Ask Mary Morrison how well that stuff has worked.

    • They’ll keep doing it until there is no money left. Isn’t the usual refrain “We just haven’t spent enough money yet”?

      • “They’ll keep doing it until there is no money left.”


        The money ran out years ago. Now we’re mortgaging ourselves to China to pay for it.

  • Okay, were the “nonparticipant children” just an average of children who weren’t part of this program, or were they a control group of children within the program who didn’t receive the Pre-K pedagogy?

  • Grant3131

    GRANTED… They are accepting the children from the lowest income (i.e. bellcurvius & friends) families so the poor results are to be expected (by the realist)

    • So CAL Snowman

      That AND the fact that Whites/Asians tend to be involved with their children’s early childhood development. Study after study has shown that reading to your kids greatly improves their achievement at the earliest ages. And as we all know hispanics and blacks do not read, even to themselves.

      • Brian

        The reading to kids is correlated with higher achievement; it’s not clear that this is a cause of the higher achievement, or merely something that comes along for the ride (white/asian parents’ higher IQ, future time orientation, impulse control, etc being the causes).

    • Pro_Whitey

      But the killer is not just poor results of the stupid (yes, grading policies discriminate against the stupid), but that all the effort just evaporates. It makes zero difference, except to the bottom lines of those who promote it and are paid to provide it.

      • Grant3131

        Grading policies discriminate against the stupid! RICH!!!

  • Luca

    Children from two-parent families who are somewhat civilized, value education, participate with the schoolwork, promote discipline, instill work ethics, teach morality at home and set a good example, generally produce a better quality of student material for the teachers to work with. In other words, the majority of Whites and Asians.

  • Known fact: Head Start does not work. So just rename it?

  • Spartacus

    You can pick them off in the womb if you want, it’s still not gonna make groids smarter…

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    we found that the effects of TN‐VPK on the WJ achievement measures observed at the end of the pre‐k year had greatly diminished by the end of the kindergarten year and the differences between participants and nonparticipants were no longer statistically significant.

    This again?

    Cato Institute, “Head Start: A Tragic Waste of Money”

    “President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services assessment of Head Start finished collecting the data in 2008—and then waited four years before releasing the study on the Friday before Christmas 2012

    Forty-five years and $166 billion later, it has been proven a failure…not a single one of the 114 tests administered to first graders — of academics, socio-emotional development, health care/health status and parenting practice — showed a reliable, statistically significant effect from participating in Head Start.”

    www // cato // org/publications/commentary/head-start-tragic-waste-money

    Heritage Foundation: “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its latest findings of a long study that followed Head Start kids all the way to third grade.

    The findings: ‘by third grade, the $8 billion Head Start program had little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of participants. On a few measures, access to Head Start had harmful effects on children.”

    www // askheritage // org/is-head-start-a-complete-failure/

    So what happens? The Obama government dedicates even MORE money ($180b so far) to a failed program. Obama’s inauguration speech:

    “Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road…Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”

    Newsmax: “This year Head Start is scheduled to receive another $8 billion of taxpayers’ money — more than $8,000 per child.”

    Who says government is NOT the problem?

    • Bergeron

      Great post.

    • $8,000 for day care?

      • Bon, From the Land of Babble

        And, that’s CHEAP.

        In Washington DC, the average per-pupil spending/year is $30,000!!

        Despite this astounding price tag—$29,409 for the 2009–2010 school year, to be exact, compared to the national average of just under $12,500 (both figures are total expenditures calculated on a per-pupil basis, including capital outlays)—the graduation rate for D.C. students hovers around 60 percent, well below the nationwide average of 74 percent. Math and reading scores are also among the lowest in the country.

        blog // heritage // org/2012/07/25/d-c-public-schools-spend-almost-30000-per-student/

        That was for the ’09-10 school year, it’s undoubtedly increased since then.

        Some babysitting, huh? For that price the kiddies should be picked up every day in a limo.

        • Some Guy

          Shami’qua needs time to her self, don’t you know? So she can smoke some blunts and watch BET.

    • dd121

      What Obama said is just another lie issuing from his mouth. Nothing new.

  • JohnEngelman

    No one but a huckster for Charles Atlas claims that is it possible to take a sickly fifteen year old “ninety-seven pound weakling” and turn him into an award winning athlete. Nevertheless, we continue to pretend that the right environment can leave no child behind, and turn everyone into a brilliant scholar capable of becoming a successful professional.

    • What’s the point of educating Americans of any race so long as big business is allowed to import all the cheap labor they want?

      • Neuday

        Modern “education” is not education, but indoctrination and the development of docility. Once this is understood, then the point of it becomes clear. The elites send their children to a very different educational environment with very different goals.

        • If the political indoctrination was of a more useful sort, like that which once promoted civilized behavior, it might be worthwhile.

  • My daughter is six, and can multiply and divide. I home school her.

  • rowingfool

    elizabeth, is your comment for real?

    If it is, then it is a perfect illustration for why head start (and clones) don’t work. You say that his class has mexican children who don’t speak english etc.

    What is a teacher to do with such a class? How can a teacher effectively address all those different needs simultaneously? Designing effective lessons that would accommodate such a diverse group of people would be physically and mentally impossible! No wonder the curriculum gets sidetracked into meaningless exercises in embracing diversity and such. Since effectively transmitting tangible knowledge is impossible, getting the kids to tolerate one another is all that’s left. And testing for content would be divisive because it would reveal disparities in ability and mastery which would just have to be papered over with more training in the joys of equality.

    • dd121

      In Atlanta they make no pretense of teaching anything. It’s strictly day care for blacks. The media won’t expose it even though they know it’s taking place. The lies just keep piling up.

  • dd121

    It already is.

  • Alexandra1973

    I was in Head Start in the Detroit area due to my parents’ income. Thing is, I was already reading by the time I started.

  • WR_the_realist

    “Prekindergarten program”?? Why don’t we just call it what it is — tax payer funded day care for minority single mothers. Now why would anybody even think that day care would cause a child to do better in school?

    • Puggg

      “Prekindergarten program” sounds like “Ph D program,” maybe deliberately so.

    • Paleoconn

      Exactly. Anyway, kids should be kids and play or learn at home before going to school at 7, like in Finland.

  • WR_the_realist

    The one thing that would work would be to discourage incompetent women from having children in the first place. That’s the one program that’s never been tried, and never will be tried.