Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Melissa Writes: 4K: The Analysis (1 of 3)

(Ed. note. This research information of Melissa Hammann is published unedited. The issue of the 4Yr. Old Kindergarten is scheduled to be in the July 10th Evansville School Board Meeting. Plan on attending to hear the debate. The Observer)

To: Evansville School Board June 25, 2006

Cc: Heidi Carvin, superintendent

Lou Havlik, LLE Principal

Dick Woulfe, Evansville Observer

From: Melissa Hammann

Subject: Four-year-old kindergarten (4K)

I patiently waited for the results of the study from the four-year-old kindergarten (4K) committee, hoping to see if sanity reigned. I see from the June LLE newsletter that my optimism got the best of me. The committee plans to recommend implementation of 4K in the Evansville school district after a pilot study in 2007-2008. I am completely dumbfounded. The school district has managed to accomplish what 17 years of marriage to a staunch Republican has not. You made me agree with the republicans on something. And I am aghast. Soon, I predict that new parents will get school registration paperwork at the hospital, along with SSN and birth certificate applications. Then they can just drop off the newborns at school on the way back to work. There will be no more childcare costs at ALL! The DPI continues to support abdication of parental responsibility. The money would be better spent on educating parents to respect education and the opportunities it can open for their children in the future. If there is no support for education at home, or, worse yet, an environment of disdain for education, the rare child will overcome such an obstacle to reach his or her full potential.

According to their report, the 4K committee was formed to “investigate the feasibility of implementing 4K in the Evansville School District.” To me, this begins with the most fundamental question of whether Evansville could or should support 4K at all. The report from the committee is more of a “how do we implement 4K in the district” study. There is no data presented in the report to confirm that Evansville supports implementing 4K, nor are there studies cited for one to confirm the dramatic claims of 4K students’ superiority. From what I understand, the majority of people surveyed who indicated a desire for 4K did so to “save money.” Just whose money are they saving? The statement that no additional local taxes will be collected is disingenuous because state law requires a local revenue match to all state funding. I have done a great deal of research since March, when I found out that our school district was still pursuing implementation of 4K. I urge the school board to review the plethora of online information about 4K at length before making any decisions on this issue. There are numerous arguments for and against 4K. I have tried to limit my remarks to quality and cost issues, while noting websites to support the remarks I make here.

I first began debating the usefulness of 4K with the administration during the half-day (5-year-old) kindergarten standoff. I was told that study after study proves vast reductions in societal pathologies attributable to the participation of at-risk students in a quality 4-year-old kindergarten. At that time, no references were provided so I searched for and found several articles and studies.

One article with a sound scientific method is available at www.preknow.org/documents/WIEconImpactReport_Sept2005.pdf. It highlights savings for one 4K cohort over its 14 years in public school. The calculations were done several ways with various assumptions and the savings seem microscopic (0.0017%), with other non-direct savings projected at about 70% recoup of investment. But the study seemed skewed toward theoretical scenarios or was so condensed the essence of the data was lost to the casual observer. This was frustrating for me since 4K programs have been available long enough to do specific side-by-side comparisons. At the time, I was looking for, but could not find, a study based on this premise: Here is a population of at-risk students with 4K; Here is one without the benefits of 4K; This is what they look like at age 6, 8, 10, 12 and so on. Ms. Carvin supplied me with the name of the most cited study, the High/Scope Perry Preschool Study. This study does follow a theoretical scenario similar to that stated above. However, it is not a 4K study.