A recent evaluation has roiled the field of early childhood education: children who participated in a statewide pre-K program had worse attitudes toward school, poorer work habits, and lower test scores by the time they reached 3rd grade than children who did not attend. In view of the many studies that report positive outcomes for state pre-K programs, how can these surprising Tennessee results be explained? As the movement for state pre-K continues to expand, with support from policymakers and the public, we need a research agenda that shows how pre-K programs can best support children’s positive attitudes toward schooling and long-term academic and social/emotional success.
On Wednesday, October 26, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the latest issue of The Future of Children—a journal that promotes effective, evidence-based policies and programs for children—titled “Starting Early: Education from Prekindergarten to Third Grade.” At the event, journal co-editor Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a professor at Columbia University, presented an overview of the volume and Ron Haskins of Brookings reviewed a policy brief about the controversy caused by the Tennessee results. Following these presentations, a panel of experts discussed the implications of the Tennessee results for preschool policy and research.