Preschool has been debated recently with Obama saying he wants to see preschool for all U.S. children. This is a waste of money. Any achievement differences shown in kindergarten between children who went to preschool and children who did not are equalized by the third grade. This has to do with brain development that normally happens around the second or third grade, but I won’t get all technical here. Think of it this way. Two fifteen-year-olds join the cross country team. One is not fast but has run 3 miles 3 times a week all summer. The second teen is naturally fast but has not run all summer. The first few practices, the first in-shape runner will probably beat the second out-of-shape runner. But, once they have both practiced for a month, the naturally fast runner will outpace the other.
What preschool, specifically Headstart, has been shown to influence is lower drop-out rates and lower incarceration statistics of teens who had attended preschool. This is important for groups that are at risk for dropping out or being incarcerated. This is not important for groups that are not at risk. Let’s concentrate our efforts on preschool for at-risk populations and then look to improve teacher pay or financial aid with the rest of that earmarked money.