The Preschool Debate Gets Heated!

President Obama’s remarks on early education in his State of the Union Address in January have done wonders for pushing preschools into the forefront of the American political discourse. But is all press good press? Just a few nights ago, comedian Jon Stewart brought up the issue on his late-night “fake news” broadcast The Daily Show, highlighting some of the back-and-forth between proponents of universal education and those skeptical of its effectiveness.

With all this attention on preschools, it’s important to keep the conversation focused on research-backed evidence to keep the truth from getting lost. We turned to edtech thought leader Lisa Guernsey and her colleague Clare McCann to help us understand what we’re hearing. In this Early Ed Watch blog post, Guernsey and McCann discuss The Daily Show clip and explain that the President’s comments on return on investment gained through preschool education are indeed valid, but “only for high-quality preschool programs.”

Preschools in the 2013 State of the Union


All of us working on the Next Generation Preschool Math Project believe deeply in the importance of improving early childhood education, but most of the national debate focuses on the K-12 arena. That’s why we were thrilled when we heard President Obama speak about the value of preschool education at last night’s State of the Union address! Here’s what the President had to say:

“And that has to start at the earliest possible age. You know, study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.
But today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.

That’s something we should be able to do.

Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children — like Georgia or Oklahoma — studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.

We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.”

With NGPM, we fully agree that high-quality early childhood education should be available to all children, and our hope is that carefully designed and researched technological solutions can bring down the cost while improving the effectiveness of preschools across the country. Follow us on our journey as we strive to design, develop, and produce innovative learning tools for tots!

Watch the full speech.