Bruno: Preschool and the Importance of Policy
A new article from the research journal Psychological Science finds that "preschool attendance may help to reduce achievement gaps" because preschool environments tend to be educationally richer than home environments, particularly for poorer children and children of color. Moreover, since the children who would benefit most are least likely to be enrolled, "the equalizing effects of preschools at the population level may not be fully realized". (Notably, the study finds that the results are similar whether or not Head Start programs are included in the analysis.)
Besides implying that we should probably be investing more heavily in early childhood education, this is a helpful reminder that it's possible to make too much of the distinction between "in-school" and "out-of-school" factors contributing to student achievement. That distinction makes sense only if we take for granted that kids are in school at certain times and not in school at other times.
The fact of the matter, however, is that whether a child is in school at a given time is to some extent a question of public policy or, if she is fortunate, family preference. And this is not only true at the preschool level; inequitable access to after-school and summer educational opportunities similarly blurs the in-school/out-of-school distinction.
Still, it is not uncommon to hear people insist that economic outcomes for adults depend primarily on hard work and other personal virtues. Such claims should not be sustainable in light of research indicating that a child's academic success may depend in part on educational decisions made when she is at the age of 4. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)