Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Compulsory Preschools

My friend Darcy Olsen, President of the Goldwater Institute, takes on the push for European style compulsory preschool in Arizona and nationwide.

It's the pits. Arizona's preschool and day care system is loosely regulated and chronically underfunded. We need a state board for school readiness to plan, coordinate and administer the system.

Or so a handful of self-professed child advocates argue.

The truth is that children's scores have been climbing steadily upward on tests of IQ and kindergarten readiness for generations. U.S. Department of Education data show most pre-kindergartners now have the social and academic building blocks for achievement. Ninety-four percent recognize numbers and shapes and can count to 10. Ninety-two percent are eager to learn, and all but 3 percent are healthy.

Some people still insist that we copy Europe's state-run system. "It's staggering how far ahead European countries are in investing in this type of education," said a Committee for Economic Development spokesman in a recent Arizona Republic story.

Are preschoolers in Europe really better off? In France and Spain, 90 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds attend preschool. Yet by age 9, the earliest age for which comparison data are available, American children outperform those students and nearly all of their European counterparts on reading, math and science tests.

Who should be copying whom?

And this article questions whether France's policy of providing state education from age 2 yields positive benefits.

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