The Rio Grande Foundation has spent considerable time recently defending those who did not support tapping the permanent fund for pre-K. Unlike most of the opponents including folks like Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur-Smith and many Republicans (who have supported increases in pre-K spending as pushed by Gov. Martinez) we at the Rio Grande Foundation do not view pre-K as effective.
We recently worked with a national scholar named Katharine Stevens from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on an opinion piece that ran in Sunday’s Albuquerque Journal. Part of her piece is excerpted below:
While increases in children’s performance associated with attending pre-K were essentially negligible, however, the LFC report highlighted several factors found to be associated with substantial improvement in student achievement.
First among those was the quality of children’s teachers, which the LFC researchers identified as having the “most impact on a student’s academic achievement” of all school-related factors. “If students have three years of highly effective teachers, their math and reading scores can increase by 16 percent,” the researchers explained, “however if students have ineffective teachers, their scores can drop by as much as 33 percent.”
The report found, furthermore, that in schools enrolling over 90 percent low-income students more than a third of teachers are currently rated as less than effective. And it found that improving the effectiveness of children’s K-12 teachers had an impact on children’s academic proficiency exceeding that of pre-K by a large margin.
In just two years, low-performing schools participating in the “Teachers Pursuing Excellence” peer mentoring program increased the percentage of students scoring at or above proficient from about 24 percent to almost 35 percent in reading and from about 16 percent to 27 percent in math.
The bottom line is this: New Mexico’s disadvantaged children don’t need more school; they need good school. And that means schools with effective teachers who show up to teach.
Tacking additional grades onto a poorly performing school system won’t help the children who need help the most. Improving the 13 grades they already attend could help them a lot.