Landmark study sparks question: Do preschool effects stick in Colorado but not in Tennessee?

Monday, October 26, 2015
Ann Schimke
Chalkbeat Colorado

A recent landmark study out of Tennessee upended the conventional wisdom about the power of preschool and raised questions nationwide, including in Colorado, about how to leverage early education to produce long-lasting impacts.
The Vanderbilt University study revealed that at-risk students who participated in Tennessee’s publicly-funded preschool program showed significant gains initially, but by third grade performed worse than non-participants on both academic and behavior measures. Early childhood experts here say the study underscores the need for quality in both preschool and subsequent K-3 instruction, but that the findings don’t match Colorado data showing that academic benefits of preschool do stick. . .

But Dale Farran, one of the Vanderbilt study authors, said such data—part of an annual report to the Colorado legislature—doesn’t rigorously match preschool children to comparison group children. Instead of matching them prior to the preschool year, they’re matched after-the-fact in first grade—leaving many unknowns about parent motivation, poverty status and skill levels when the comparison children were 4.