Home » OPINION » Columns » OP-ED — Another case of ill-informed pronouncements on education in Mississippi

OP-ED — Another case of ill-informed pronouncements on education in Mississippi

Bill Crawford has recently written several pieces on how to best train Mississippi’s work force. He makes his point by using the research generated by the Nobel Prize winning economist, Dr. James Heckman, who has shown that the greatest return on investment (ROI) in educating the workforce of the future is through high quality early childhood education. I suppose Grant Callen missed that memo since he has now pronounced that pre-kindergarten programs are an entitlement, and not the core of high quality education for children in the state who we hope someday will be productive workers.

Pre-K is an entitlement. Just not the type of entitlement Mr. Callen is trying to disparage. High quality early childhood education is a work force investment tool that is what all Mississippians are entitled to receive. The 13:1 ROI when reviewing life events over time cannot be ignored, especially by Mr. Callen, who has no research of this caliber to support his opinion. The newest data from Professor Heckman and colleagues finds a 13 percent ROI for comprehensive, high-quality, birth-to-five early education. This research analyzes a wide variety of life outcomes, such as health, crime, income, IQ, schooling, and the increase in a mother’s income after returning to work due to childcare.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, a report released in 2017 shows the second largest and longest-standing U.S. voucher program, in Milwaukee, offers no solid evidence of student gains in either private or public schools.  Numerous research reports on school choice that have been generated by all types of think tanks still cannot make the argument for the connection between choice and massive improvements in student outcomes.  For Mr. Callen to try to confuse the two issues is an old trick designed to divide and conquer. This time, the data is not there to support his entitlement claim, other than to say, all children in our state are entitled to a high quality early childhood education. It is the way to support workforce development and keep Mississippi brain power at home.

Mr. Callen writes “School choice is not a silver bullet, but it offers the most promise for the least money and the least amount of effort.” In my opinion, that statement is the best reason anyone could give for dismissing the entire voucher movement. Education does require effort. Education does require money. If Mr. Callen did not think so, he would not have worked to appropriate more funds for vouchers per child to use for choice than the amount the state was willing to fund per pupil for public schools.

» DR. CATHY GRACE is the Co-Director of The Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning at the University of Mississippi. She can be reached at cwgrace@olemiss.edu.

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2 comments

  1. Charles Littlewood

    “The newest data from Professor Heckman and colleagues finds a 13 percent ROI for comprehensive, high-quality, birth-to-five early education. This research analyzes a wide variety of life outcomes, such as health, crime, income, IQ, schooling, and the increase in a mother’s income after returning to work due to childcare.”

    That research from Professor Heckman analyzes the effects of two boutique early childcare programs for poor blacks 40 years ago in North Carolina. The data from one of these programs is fishy.

    Abecedarian Early Intervention Project

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abecedarian_Early_Intervention_Project

    QUOTE:Some researchers have advised caution about the reported positive results of the project. Among other things, they have pointed out analytical discrepancies in published reports, including unexplained changes in sample sizes between different assessments and publications. Herman Spitz has noted that a mean cognitive ability difference of similar magnitude to the final difference between the intervention and control groups was apparent in cognitive tests already at age six months, indicating that “4 1/2 years of massive intervention ended with virtually no effect.” Spitz has suggested that the IQ difference between the intervention and control groups may have been latently present from the outset due to faulty randomization.[8] In fact, it is known that randomization was compromised in the Abecedarian program, with seven families assigned to the experimental group and one family assigned to the control group dropping out of the program after learning about their random assignment.[9]

    The benefits (if they existed) from the programs analyzed by Heckman might not carry over to massively scaled up programs now. Also, Heckman himself says that such benefits don’t apply to the children of mother who know how to care for their children properly.

    Something with a ROI that would dwarf the ROI from early childcare for “disadvantaged” children would be to kick out the illegals and not allow more immigration by people who will be a burden on the American taxpayer.

  2. I find it interesting that Mr. Littlewood only quoted the criticisms and neglected to list the findings which showed significant gains over time. Also, the 5 year-old information was on Wikipedia, which is not a reputable research site. And, new significant information has been reported since this was published. The Nobel Prize is not wasted on dummies. Read research findings reported by the National Institute for Early Education to see the how programs brought “to scale” have succeeded.

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