Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is Universal Pre K a Waste of Money? John Stossel Says, "Yes!

Why do I love Facebook? Oh let me count the ways…

Below is a great Facebook convo around John Stossel’s Universal Pre K report on 20/20. What’s better than watching a show on TV, debating/discussing the ideas with your colleagues, and then getting feedback from the reporter on the story??? I don’t think our parents (mine who used to scream at political reporters on television) could have imagined such a world. I love the interactivity and blending of media’s today.

If Universal Pre K is of interest to you, read the thread below and comment here on my blog to share your thoughts or Facebook me! to join or follow the conversation at the original thread.

Lisa Velmer Nielsen watching John Stossel-ABC report against Universal Pre K. Research says that it's effects wear off by 4th grade. Sez it's not worth the $$.

10:32pm · Comment · LikeUnlike · Show Feedback (16)Hide Feedback (16) · via Twitter

You like this.

Mike at 10:44pm March 13

Saw that too. What did you think? History would tell me that voluntary, universal pre-k would become mandatory after awhile.

Lisa Velmer Nielsen at 10:49pm March 13

I think John is right. It is a waste of money and those in need can do head start. Since there are no benefits by 4th grade, why spend the money? I told him to speak to Geoffrey Canada though of Harlem Children's Zone. He can show gains because he keeps his kids ALL THE WAY TO COLLEGE GRADS!!! Crazy. But, that may be the key.

Julet at 10:50pm March 13

Sorry I missed that. I would like to see the research behind that and how they came up with that conclusion.

Mike at 10:51pm March 13

Don't tell our government that! (Rep or Dem). That'll be their next idea.

Lisa Velmer Nielsen at 10:54pm March 13

@Julet, Yeah, John collected a lot of research showing there are no gains by fourth grade and shared some in the report. Not too hard to find. I was surprised, but tis true. But not in Geoffrey Canada's kid's cases because he has a different model.

Lisa Velmer Nielsen at 10:54pm March 13

@Mike, if we rewarded schools based on the kids who graduated college that may have a very good effect. That is a good idea!

Julet at 10:59pm March 13

I really wished I had seen it because all the data I'm familiar with point the other way. I am curious to know what was cited as the reason for it wearing off by 4th grade. I am going to look online for his report.
Thanks for the info.

Lisa Velmer Nielsen at 11:02pm March 13

Well, I have not researched this personally, I'm sure Stossel was skewing the info a bit to make his point. Perhaps I can ask him to share the reports. Keep in mind, that he is not focusing on low income or disputing head start. He's saying Universal for all is not necessary and focusing on the middle - upper class.

Mike at 11:04pm March 13

Don't you think that would just reward the schools that don't need the money? I think my school probably sees 1 out of 25 graduates actually graduate from college. Plus, what if you go to two different high schools? Would the money trickle down to middle schools?
I've always thought that merit pay would be a good idea if it was tied to what the teacher did in the classroom, not how students do. For example, you get money if you take college classes, get money if you mentor, maintain a portfolio throughout the year that demonstrates the type of teaching you and I advocate.

Lisa Velmer Nielsen at 11:07pm March 13

@Mike, Yes...Good point. To elaborate, it would have to have the caveat of the increase in graduation from the base over the past maybe five years. What do you think of that? Also, if you school hopped, that could still work. Each school would get a percentage. I think they could make an algorithm.

Mike at 11:09pm March 13

you know, I just thought. Wasn't the idea of Head Start to get the kids even with other kids? That w/o Head Start, they'd be behind. So what Stossel found out probably means Head Start did what it was supposed to do? I'm not well versed in Head Start, but I doubt it would have promised to make kids smarter than non-Head Start kids. But, even still, I don't like the idea of voluntary, universal pre-k.

Lisa Velmer Nielsen at 11:13pm March 13

What Stossel said (and had others back) was that when tested you could not tell the difference btwn the HS kids and the ones who hadn't attended. Even kids of the same SES.

Julet at 11:59pm March 13

I just read his report online. He cites one report (Perry) which was done sometime ago. He also refers to the Multistate (not by name)which was done a few years ago, however he seems to only point out the negative (aggressive disruptive behavior) which were few compared to the benefits. I am not sure if he had more hard data on the show but I found no real reference online.

Lisa Velmer Nielsen at 12:09am March 14

If you draft an email, I can send it to him and probably get a response.

Ron at 7:37am March 14

Universal pre-k is also a working/middle class day care subsidy

Lisa Velmer Nielsen at 9:19am March 14

@Ron, agree about that, but what Stossel is saying is the government doesn't need to be involved. He says they already do a crappy job in general with ed and PK in particular. Keep PK where it the individually run centers and then consider a subsidy package for those who need it. He didn't seem to really be touching headstart.

From: Stossel, John F
Sent: Sat 3/14/2009 10:33 AM
To: Nielsen Lisa
Subject: Show

Thanks for watching.

I know Geoffrey, and we have talked to him, and we would interview him for
our next show on education. Trouble is, my boss doesn't want one.

On the other hand, if last night's show gets good ratings, I'll probably get
to do the Educ show. I'll find out at noon.

From: Stossel, John F
Sent: Sat 3/14/2009 11:00 AM
To: Nielsen Lisa
Subject: Re: Show and Facebook

Some of my data comes from Lisa Snell.

Universal preschool hasn't delivered results


  1. I'm Mike from the above thread BTW. My school district just blocked Facebook from teachers. Too much overuse by some teachers, so all of us get blocked now. Trouble is, though I run a blog, I get my best conversations going in Facebook, like above (though it was in the PM). I'd see something during the school day, post it in Facebook, and get comments. Now that's gone. I'm not sure how to approach this to the tech folks here.

  2. @Mike,
    Sorry to hear that. It's another example of banning the tool rather than addressing the issue. Most things can be use for multiple purposes, but shouldn't be banned just because that is the case. As my colleague Alan November has asked, "If a student was found passing an inappropriate note in class, would we ban paper?" No! We should be dealing with the behavior. Sadly it seems your district has handled this issue by simply removing an innocent url. The teachers who are not responsibly using this site will likely just find another site to "abuse" or use FB on their cells.

    One day, I hope administrators will understand that the key is not banning, but rather encouraging safe, acceptable, appropriate, and educationally-sound use of technology and providing consequences for actions not consistent with this.