Friday, March 13, 2009

Details on the claim that spending money on preschool education saves money

President Obama recently made the claim that:

$1 of early education leads to $10 in saved social services.”

This is a nice sounding claim. It justifies spending more money on preschool. Adam Schaeffer says unfortunately it is wrong. In The Early-Ed Big Lie he references an analysis he did of some of the studies which "prove" this claim. Pre-K Pushers Peddling Patent Prevarications looks into detail on a couple research projects and points out some serious errors. He starts with:

We left off in our last episode with a teaser on why the blessed Perry Preschool Project, Carolina Abecedarian Project, and Chicago Child-Parent Centers Program don’t prove what many people like to pretend they prove; the long-term effectiveness, let alone cost-effectiveness, of current large-scale preschool programs.
Let’s begin with the fact that these programs were all small-scale, intensive, and targeted at the most disadvantaged children.


Here are a couple of the errors Adam found:

1) The control group was not picked at random.
2) Not all the costs were added in. (For example the poor familes were also given medical help.)
3) The children they were trying to help was a very targeted group.

There may be a small group of children from heavily disadvantaged families who could benefit from some focused help, but most young children do better when they are with their families.

(Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs)

Technorati tags: government schools, children, public school, public education, education, parenting


ChristineMM said...

Wrong facts about preschool being good for all kids is a topic explored in the book: Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk by David Elkind.

I can't recommend the book highly enough.

Luke Holzmann said...

It's always nice to be able to say things like "we save money and people this way"... but it's so much better to actually get the facts right [smile]. Wonder where Obama got that stat?


Henry Cate said...

Christine, thanks for the suggestion. I just checked and our library has the book, so I'm going to look at it today.

Luke, I do wonder if Obama knew that the numbers only applied to a small group of really dysfunctional families, or if he was just reading the teleprompter.

early childhood programs said...

I agree with christine, preschool education is an important for kids development broadly!!