The Ottumwa Courier

July 3, 2013

Preschool good for more than just education

Ottumwa Courier

---- — A new report shows there’s little difference in the test scores of Iowa schoolchildren who attend preschool and those who don’t.

Interesting, but we hope it’s not the impetus for budget-cutting legislators (or the governor’s office, for that matter) as a reason to take a bite out of preschool funding. (We have no reason to believe that would happen, but these days one never knows.)

We take our position because there’s a lot more to going to school in any grade than book learning, and that seems especially true in preschool.

The preschool study, which came out of the Iowa Department of Education, showed little difference in reading and math test scores by the time students reach third grade whether or not they participated in a voluntary preschool program.

The report’s authors followed the first group of Iowa students offered voluntary all-day preschool (2007-08) and which just completed third grade.

However, while the report shows no impact on test results, it’s not contending there was no impact from preschool on those youngsters, wrote Jason Glass, Department of Education director, in an introduction to the report.

“Multiple studies have shown positive outcomes for students that reinforce the need for early childhood education,” he wrote.

Glass also said the study should be considered exactly for what it is — an initial step and not a final word on preschool.

Gov. Terry Branstad, a fiscal conservative, apparently isn’t rushing to any conclusions, either. That’s good. We don’t pretend to be childhood experts, but in scanning numerous Internet reports we found more than enough from very credible sources to make us believe that preschool is very important.

Among the positives:

— Development of social skills such as taking turns, following directions, cooperation with teachers and fellow students.

— Exposure to the alphabet, language skills and more through activities that increase childhood creativity in a variety of ways whether through music, art or other skill-building programs.

— Learning things that they likely wouldn’t learn at home.

— Plus, of course, introduction to those subjects they’ll learn about in school.

Here’s another reason we believe preschool is important. Linda Fandel, the governor’s special assistant on education policy, noted the state’s education reform bill requires readiness assessments for kids entering kindergarten.

We believe that preschool can give our students a boost in preparedness for when they begin their formal education. And that’s why we hope Iowa continues to help provide preschool education for all Iowa children whose families can see the benefits and want to participate.

Mason City Globe Gazette. June 25, 2013.