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The Pre-K Debates

The Pre-K Debates

Current Controversies and Issues
Volume Editors: Edward Zigler Ph.D., Walter S. Gilliam Ph.D., Marilou Hyson Ph.D.   Chapter Authors: W. Steven Barnett Ph.D., Debra J. Ackerman Ph.D., W. Steven Barnett Ph.D., Sandra J. Bishop-Josef Ph.D., Barbara T. Bowman M.A., Jeanne Brooks-Gunn Ph.D., Margaret Burchinal Ph.D., Rachel Chazan-Cohen Ph.D., Deborah Daro Ph.D., Greg J. Duncan Ph.D., Ellen C. Frede Ph.D., Jocelyn Friedlander, Bruce Fuller, Walter S. Gilliam Ph.D., Mark Ginsberg Ph.D., Roberta Michnick Golinkoff Ph.D., Rebecca E. Gomez M.Ed., Todd Grindal Ed.M., Rob Grunewald M.S., Cathy M. Hayakawa M.A., James J. Heckman Ph.D., E. D. Hirsch Jr., Ph.D., Kathy Hirsch-Pasek Ph.D., Sharon Lynn Kagan Ed.D., J. Ronald Lally Ed.D., David Lawrence Jr., John M. Love Ph.D., Alison Lutton M.Ed., Kathleen McCartney Ph.D., Genevieve Okada M.A., Robert C. Pianta Ph.D., Helen H. Raikes Ph.D., C. Cybele Raver Ph.D., Arthur J. Reynolds Ph.D., Art Rolnick Ph.D., Elizabeth Rose Ph.D., Lawrence J. Schweinhart Ph.D., Deborah Stipek Ph.D., Ruby Takanishi Ph.D., Judy A. Temple Ph.D., Sara D. Watson Ph.D., Barry A. White M.P.P., Barbara A. Willer Ph.D., Daniel E. Witte J.D., Martha Zaslow Ph.D., Edward Zigler Ph.D.

ISBN: 978-1-59857-183-7
Pages: 264
Copyright: 2011
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Targeted or universal pre-K? Direct instruction or learning through play? These and other debates are heating up as more and more young children across the country gain access to pre-K programs. Now there's a single volume that spotlights today's most urgent pre-K debates, explores each one from all sides, and paves the way for sound, educated decision-making.

Edited by a founder of Head Start and two other highly respected experts, this forward-thinking book gathers a who's who of more than 40 leading thinkers in early childhood education for a rigorous examination of the most-debated pre-K issues. In a clear and compelling point-counterpoint format, this book gives current and future decision-makers multifaceted perspectives on critical questions:

  • Should pre-K be targeted or universal?
  • What kind of teacher preparation should be required, in terms of credentials and education?
  • When should pre-K services be provided and for how long?
  • Where should pre-K be provided-in public schools only or in other early childhood programs?
  • What should the primary focus of instruction be— academics or the whole child?
  • Should pre-K be structured around direct instruction or learning through play?
  • How can we ensure quality and accountability in pre-K programs?

Readers will also get a helpful synthesis of the major themes of the pre-K debate, investigate lessons learned from model programs in two states (New Jersey and Oklahoma), and identify key issues for future research and debate, including education policies for English language learners and children with special needs.

Whether used as a reference or a preservice text, this landmark book will prepare early childhood administrators, policy makers, and researchers to make informed decisions about the future of preK— so all young children will have the best chance at school success.

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Reviews

Review by: Susan Neuman, Professor of Educational Studies, University of Michigan
"A top-notch resource . . . highly readable and informative, describing the critical issues and debates in early childhood policy and practice that will need to be grappled with in the future."
Review by: Sharon Ritchie, Senior Scientist, FPG Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"Thanks and praise to these distinguished authors and editors for capturing and framing questions essential to refined and nuanced thinking about early education. Their ability to balance neutrality with passion offer each of us our own entry point into the thinking and conversation."
Review by: Carol Day, President and CEO, National Black Child Development Institute, Washington, DC
"Offers illuminating pros and cons to current early education debates . . . concisely captures the most important areas of critical tension in the field and helps sharpen our thinking as we continue to seek their resolution."
Review by: Tom Schultz, Director of Early Childhood Services, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington, DC
"Provides deep, cogent analysis, a wealth of evidence, and diverse perspectives on the tough pre-k policy issues . . . a must read for policymakers and early childhood advocates."
Review: Young Children (NAEYC)
A comprehensive collection of options for helping educators reach informed decisions about making preschool universally available and maximally effective for all young children in the United States.
Review: District Administration
January 2012 New Books section- recommended reading for district leaders

About the Editors

About the Contributors


Introduction

Edward Zigler, Walter S. Gilliam, & W. Steven Barnett

An Overview of Preschool

Chapter 1: Effective Child Development Strategies
James J. Heckman

Chapter 2. The Right Policy at the Right Time: The Pew Prekindergarten Campaign
Sara D. Watson


PART I: THE DEBATES

Debate 1: Targeted versus Universal Preschool
Chapter 3. The Economic Case for Targeted Preschool Programs
Art Rolnick & Rob Grunewald
Chapter 4. Preschool as Public Entitlement: Advancing Children or Political Interests?
Bruce Fuller
Chapter 5. Four Reasons the United States Should Offer Every Child a Preschool Education
W. Steven Barnett
Chapter 6. About Everyone's Child: Winning Public Support for Early Learning
David Lawrence, Jr.
Chapter 7. Universal Plus: What's Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Well
Sharon Lynn Kagan & Jocelyn Friedlander

Debate 2: Teacher Credentials versus Competencies and Supports
Chapter 8. Minimum Requirements for Preschool Teacher Educational Qualifications
W. Steven Barnett
Chapter 9. Bachelor's Degrees Are Necessary But Not Sufficient: Preparing Teachers to Teach Young Children
Barbara T. Bowman
Chapter 10. College Credentials and Caring: How Teacher Training Could Lift Young Children Bruce Fuller Chapter 11. A Degree Is Not Enough: Teachers Need Stronger and More Individualized Professional Development Supports to Be Effective in the Classroom
Robert C. Pianta
Chapter 12. B.A. Plus: Reconciling Reality and Reach
Sharon Lynn Kagan & Rebecca E. Gomez
Chapter 13. Competencies and Credentials for Early Childhood Educators: What Do We know and What Do We Need to Know?
Margaret Burchinal, Marilou Hyson, & Martha Zaslow
Chapter 14. The Importance of Early Childhood Teacher Preparation: The Perspectives and Positions of the National Association for the Education of Young Children
Barbara A. Willer, Alison Lutton, & Mark Ginsberg

Debate 3: Cognitive/Academic Emphasis versus Whole Child Approach
Chapter 15. The Cognitive/Academic Emphasis versus the Whole Child Approach: The 50-Year Debate
Sandra J. Bishop-Josef & Edward Zigler
Chapter 16. The Importance of Kindergarten-Entry Academic Skills
Greg J. Duncan
Chapter 17. Academic Preschool: The French Connection
E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
Chapter 18. Classroom Practices and Children's Motivation to Learn
Deborah Stipek
Chapter 19. Classroom-Based Intervention as a Way to Support Low-Income Preschoolers' Emotional and Behavioral Development: Pressing Challenges and Potential Opportunities
C. Cybele Raver & Genevieve Okada
Chapter 20. The Great Balancing Act: Optimizing Core Curricula through Playful Pedagogy
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek & Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

Debate 4: Public Schools Only versus Other Sites
Chapter 21. The Case for Public Preschool
Kathleen McCartney, Margaret Burchinal, & Todd Grindal
Chapter 22. Preschool Programs Should Be Coordinated in the Public Schools with Supports from Head Start and Child Care
Walter S. Gilliam
Chapter 23. Public Schools as the Hub of a Mixed Delivery System of Early Care and Education
W. Steven Barnett & Debra J. Ackerman
Chapter 24. Applying Choice-Based Multivenue Education Concepts to Preschool Education
Daniel E. Witte


PART II: THE ISSUES

Issue 1: How Can Quality and Accountability in Preschool Programs Be Ensured?
Chapter 25. A Model Preschool Program
Edward Zigler
Chapter 26. How to Make Early Childhood Programs Highly Effective
Lawrence J. Schweinhart
Chapter 27. Why the Child-Parent Center Education Program Promotes Life-Course Development
Arthur J. Reynolds & Cathy Momoko Hayakawa
Chapter 28. Assessing Accountability and Ensuring Continuous Program Improvement: Why, How and Who
Ellen C. Frede, Walter S. Gilliam, & Lawrence J. Schweinhart

Issue 2: What Should Come Before and After Preschool?
Chapter 29. The Link Between Consistent Caring Interactions with Babies, Early Brain Development, and School Readiness
J. Ronald Lally
Chapter 30. What Should Come Before Preschool: Lessons from Early Head Start
Helen Raikes, Rachel Chazan-Cohen, & John M. Love
Chapter 31. Home Visitation
Deborah Daro
Chapter 32. Economic Benefits of Intervention Programs Implemented in the First Decade of Life
Arthur J. Reynolds, Judy A. Temple, & Barry A.B. White
Chapter 33. Transforming America's Primary Education System for the 21st Century: Integrating K-12 Education with Prekindergarten
Ruby Takanishi
Chapter 34. Redirecting Title I
Edward Zigler


PART III: WHAT NEXT?

Lessons from the States
Chapter 35. Prekindergarten in Oklahoma
Elizabeth Rose
Chapter 36. New Jersey's Abbott Prekindergarten Program: A Model for the Nation
Ellen C. Frede & W. Steven Barnett

Danger of Overselling Preschool
Chapter 37. A Warning Against Exaggerating the Benefits of Preschool Education Programs
Edward Zigler
Chapter 38. Early Childhood Education: The Likelihood of Sustained Effects
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn

Summary and Synthesis
Chapter 39. The Prekindergarten Debates: Contrasting Perspectives, Integrative Possibilities, and Potential for Deepening the Debates
Martha Zaslow

References

Index

Excerpted from Chapter 1 of The Pre-K Debates edited by Edward Zigler, Ph.D., Walter S. Gilliam, Ph.D., and W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D. Copyright© 2011 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Introduction
Edward Zigler, Walter S. Gilliam, and W. Steven Barnett

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Likewise, anything worth doing well is worthy of vigorous debate regarding the goals of the effort and exactly how those goals should be achieved. Preschool education has grown into an idea that is worthy of debate. Indeed, vigorous debate has been an integral part of the evolution of the concept of early education. Since the 1960s, preschool education has grown from an experimental idea from researchers and scholars into one that is widely accepted by leaders in the worlds of policy, economics, and business. It is widely viewed as perhaps the best means for improving the educational and later-life outcomes of young children, addressing the racial and class gaps in educational achievement, and protecting our societal investment in education. The interested parties have grown from a handful of scholars to thought leaders across a myriad of ?elds, including business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, economists, lawyers, and public of?cials. This wide-ranging interest in early education is a strong indicator of the priority given to this topic and a societal acceptance of the importance of supporting our youngest and most vulnerable learners. Given this level of interest, debates are inevitable, and each issue of debate has its champions.

This book builds on the considerable evidence for the positive impact of high-quality early education, as well as the fact that many of our early education programs do not rise to the level of quality that research has consistently shown is possible to achieve and necessary for bene?cial impacts. Much has been learned about the essential ingredients of early education (e.g., Pianta, Barnett, Burchinal, & Thornburg, 2009; Zigler, Gilliam, & Jones, 2006a). The current debates are largely about the goals of public preschool education and how best to provide the ingredients needed to accomplish them on a large scale.

Rather than restating the rationale for early education, this book dives directly into the hottest debates in the ?eld. For each issue of debate, the most vocal and erudite champions were identi?ed. Each champion summarized his or her position and the evidentiary basis in a brief essay, and the essays were organized to place each debater in contrast to an opposing debater. In this way, the reader can weigh the pros and cons for each position and emerge more informed as to what is known (and yet unknown) about how best to provide early education in the United States. At the end of the book, Martha Zaslow—one of the nation's most forward-thinking scholars on early education and child care and Director of the Of?ce for Policy and Communication of the Society for Research in Child Development—offers a summary and synthesis of the main topics of debates, highlighting areas of clear differences in opinion, as well as areas where some degree of consensus may be found.

To set the stage for the foray into these debates, Chapters 1 and 2 provide an overview of current understanding of preschool education and the rationale for this intense interest in how best to provide it. Chapter 1, by Nobel Laureate economist James J. Heckman, provides an excellent discussion of many of the key concepts underpinning the importance of early education, whereas Chapter 2, by Sara D. Watson of the Pew Charitable Trusts, explains why these key concepts have so greatly captured the energy and enthusiasm of public of?cials and private philanthropy.

After this brief overview, Part I of the book moves directly into the issues of debate. Chapters 3–7 focus squarely on what is perhaps the biggest issue facing public-funded preschool: Should eligibility for publicly funded preschool be targeted speci?cally to low-income children or open to all children regardless of income? The debaters raise both practical and principled questions about alternative policies. Although the issue may appear to be one of polar-opposite opinions, a variety of middle-ground options are also explored in the essays. Chapters 8–14 focus on what degrees or credentials preschool teachers should possess. Again, the issue at hand is more nuanced than simply debating whether teachers should possess a bachelor's degree or not. The debaters tackle this weighty issue from a variety of angles that address both preservice training and ongoing teacher supports, as well as the ways in which the broader contexts and conditions of early education may affect the answers. Chapters 15–20 address the goals of preschool: Should public-supported preschool be focused primarily on cognitive or academic achievement, or should the mission be broader? Chapters 21–24 focus on discussing which locations and administrative structures might best deliver preschool education. At present, public-funded preschool is provided across a wide array of provider organizations (e.g., public schools, private schools, Head Start grantees, child care providers, other nonpro?t agencies). Which programs are best equipped to provide a quality preschool experience to young children, and how can a system of early education best be created from the programmatic building blocks that currently exist?

Parts II and III include issues that do not ? t neatly into debates, but they are important nonetheless. These topics address questions such as the following:

  • How do we ensure quality and accountability in preschool programs? (Chapters 25–8)
  • What should come before and after preschool? (Chapters 29–34)
  • What lessons can be learned from state efforts to implement prekindergarten systems? (Chapters 35 and 36)
  • What might be the dangers in overselling preschool as a magical elixir to cure all of the ails in our educational system? (Chapters 37 and 38)

The purpose of this book is not to settle these debates. Rather, it is to allow the interested reader an opportunity to better appreciate the differing perspectives and opinions, understand the reach and limits of the existing evidence in favor of each position, and form his or her own conclusion. As the French essayist Joseph Joubert (1754–1824) opined, "It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it" (Lyttelton, 1899). With this in mind, this book is not intended to close any debates, but rather to open them up for greater illumination and wider participation. Enter the debaters.

Debate 1
TARGETED VERSUS UNIVERSAL PRESCHOOL

STUDY QUESTIONS

  • What are the three main criticisms of targeted preschool? What are the authors' rebuttals?
  • How does a universal program generate bene?ts that a targeted program does not? Do these outcomes outweigh the added expense?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the tactic of implementing universal pre-K and then working to make it high quality? Conversely, what are the benefits of starting with a high-quality, targeted pre-K program and then expanding it to a universal program? (See examples in Chapter 6.)

The Economic Case for Targeted Preschool Programs
Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald

As stewards of the public purse, policy makers are charged with allocating scarce resources to investments that provide the greatest benefits relative to costs. Early childhood education (ECE) targeted for at-risk children is such an investment. Economic research has made the case that investment in ECE for at-risk children provides extraordinary returns. Some of the bene?ts are private gains for individuals in the form of higher wages later in life, but a majority of the bene?ts accrue to society as a whole through reduced remedial education and crime costs and higher tax revenue.

However, returns to ECE investments are not all equal. The returns to universal programs (i.e., preschool programs available for all children) are much lower than returns to targeted programs. Indeed, the returns to universal programs appear low even relative to other public investments. Consequently, based on the principle that resources should be invested in the highest return projects, ECE investments should be aimed at our most at-risk children.

In this chapter, we ?rst show that investments in at-risk children achieve substantially higher returns than universal investments. We then respond to several criticisms of targeted preschool programs. We conclude with a discussion of the key features for successfully investing in targeted ECE programs and advocate for a market-based approach.

ECONOMIC RESEARCH FAVORS TARGETED APPROACHES TO EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

The high return to early childhood investments targeted to at-risk children is well researched. Analyses of the Perry preschool program (Schweinhart et al., 2005), the Abecedarian project (Masse & Barnett, 2002), the Chicago Child-Parent Centers (Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, & Mann, 2002), and the Elmira Prenatal/Early Infancy Project (Karoly et al., 1998) show annual rates of return, adjusted for in?ation, ranging from 7% to just over 20% and benefit–cost ratios ranging from 4:1 to more than 10:1 (Heckman, Grunewald, & Reynolds, 2006). Researchers followed effects of these ECE programs through adolescence and well into adulthood (Heckman et al., 2006).

These four longitudinal studies form the primary cost–benefit evidence in support of ECE investments targeted to at-risk children (i.e., from low-income households) and their families. Research also suggests that early childhood investments targeted to at-risk children should start well before preschool. Neuroscience shows that the ?rst few years of life are crucial to healthy brain development. Programs that begin early are particularly important to children exposed to toxic stress (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2009).

RETURNS TO TARGETED PROGRAMS ARE HIGHER THAN UNIVERSAL

In this section, we show that returns to targeted preschool programs are higher than universal programs through a critique of the case for universal preschool. Proponents for universal preschool claim that the rate of return to middle-income children on a per-child basis is substantial—even though it is smaller than the return to low-income children. They demonstrate the rate of return to middle-income children in part by extrapolating from the longitudinal studies focused on low-income children. In addition, proponents note that the total return to universal preschool is much larger than the total return to targeted preschool because there are a large number of middle-income children relative to low-income children.

In our response to the case for universal preschool, we begin by discussing three shortcomings in universal proponents' claim that per-child returns to universal preschool are substantial. First, extrapolating evidence from the longitudinal targeted studies to middle-income children is subject to a fair degree of uncertainty. Second, benefits to low-income children from attending universal preschool tend to drive the universal rate of return. Third, universal preschool supplants funds middle- and high income families would spend on preschool regardless of the availability of universal preschool.

In addition to these shortcomings, we argue that the per-child rate of return is a better criterion for making funding decisions than the total rate of return. Moreover, we contend that the higher overall cost of universal preschool relative to targeted preschool could crowd out investment in potentially higher return investments.

A targeted approach achieves a higher rate of return than a universal approach because low income children begin at a lower baseline than children from higher-income families. (Children from higher-income families are more likely to start preschool closer to the developmental mean.) Hart and Risley (1995) observed that by the age of 3 years, children who grew up in homes with parents on welfare had only half the number of vocabulary words as children who grew up in homes with college educated parents. The gap observed by the researchers translates to high costs to society. We argue that a preschool investment in the former child produces a high public return, whereas a preschool investment in the latter produces a modest public return. The longitudinal studies cited previously show that high-quality targeted ECE programs can reduce costs for special education, grade retention, and the criminal justice system and can increase tax revenue (Heckman et al., 2006).

Universal proponents point to studies of universal preschool programs to make the case that children from all income levels benefit from attending. For example, a study of Oklahoma's universal preschool program in Tulsa showed that children from higher income families posted test score gains. However, children who quali?ed for free lunch and reduced-price lunch had higher test score gains in letter-word identi?cation, spelling, and applied problems than children who paid full price for lunch (Gromley, 2007).

Some researchers have used the cost–benefit study results of the longitudinal studies to help estimate economic returns to universal programs. Examples of applying the results from studies of targeted preschool programs to universal preschool are found in Bel?eld (2004), Karoly and Bigelow (2005), and Lynch (2007). However, attempts to adjust the economic impact for middle-income and high income children are subject to a fair degree of uncertainty. For example, the Karoly and Bigelow study of California universal preschool reported that preschool benefit–cost estimates range from roughly 2:1 to more than 4:1. Differences between the estimates are based on different assumptions regarding how much middle-risk and low-risk children benefit from universal preschool relative to high-risk children.

If the per-child rate of return of middle-risk and low-risk children is relatively modest, the participation of high-risk children in universal programs would primarily drive the economic return. In the Karoly and Bigelow study (2005), the most conservative estimate of 2:1 assumed that all benefits to the universal program accrue to high-risk children, who comprise 25% of California's 4-year-old population. The baseline benefit–cost ratio reported in the study was 2.6:1, in which middle-risk children and low-risk children received 50% and 25% of benefits, respectively, relative to high-risk children. (In the simulation, these impacts referred to children who would not have attended preschool without the implementation of the universal program.) The baseline benefit–cost ratio is driven largely by benefits to high-risk children. Furthermore, if the California preschool program was limited to the high-risk children and not offered to all children, overall costs would drop by 75% (the proportion of middle- and low-risk children in the simulation), thus increasing the benefit–cost ratio to closer to 8:1.

Although Karoly and Bigelow (2005) accounted for differences in preschool attendance by risk level, their return to middle-income children may be overstated when existing parental investments are fully taken into account. Offering free preschool to middle- and high-income families only marginally increases the number of these children who enroll in preschool because many are already enrolled in a tuition-based program. In 2005, approximately 47% of children ages 3– living below the poverty line were enrolled in a center-based preschool nationally compared with 60% of children ages 3–5 living above the poverty line (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). This disparity exists despite the availability of Head Start, which is free for children living below the poverty line as de?ned by the Of?ce of Management and Budget (Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007, PL 110-134). In 2011, the poverty line for a family of four was $22,350 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). Parents with higher levels of education, which is consistent with higher levels of income, spend more resources on their children for child care than parents with lower levels of education (Rosenbaum & Ruhm, 2007). For example, caregivers with education attainment levels beyond high school spend twice as much per hour on child care as caregivers who did not graduate high school. In addition, children in higher income families on average have a more enriched home environment than children in low-income families. All of this evidence demonstrates that universal preschool tends to supplant resources that higher income families already spend on supporting their children's educational experience.

Universal proponents also point out that because there are a large number of middle-income children relative to low-income children, the total net return to a universal program is substantially higher than targeted programs (Barnett, Brown, & Shore, 2004). However, total net return is not the best criterion for deciding whether to invest; a better criterion is the per-child rate of return. The question should be, how should the next dollar be invested in ECE? The correct answer comes from looking at marginal net benefits, not the total. On the margin, the next dollar spent on at-risk children will produce a bigger bang for the buck than if the next dollar were spent on middle-income children.

However, even when a universal program demonstrates positive marginal net benefits, it is not a suf?cient condition for funding. The rate of return or benefit–cost ratio must be compared with other potential investments, including investments to develop human capital, particularly prenatal-to-age-3 programs for at-risk children. For example, the Nurse Family Partnership, which is modeled on the nurse-based home visiting model studied in Elmira, New York, has demonstrated strong public rates of return (Heckman et al., 2006). Other human capital investments may also prove to have higher rates of return than universal preschool, such as after-school programs, teacher compensation reform, classroom size, and summer transition programs. Universal proponents must show that returns to universal preschool trump these other investments.

To illustrate this issue, consider Georgia's universal preschool program and Michigan's targeted program. The overall cost of universal preschool is generally more expensive than a targeted program simply because it encompasses more children. For example, Georgia's universal preschool program reaches 78,310 four-year-olds at an annual cost of $332 million. In contrast, Michigan's preschool program is targeted to 4-year-old children who have educational disadvantages; it reaches 24,091 children for an annual cost of $103 million (Barnett, Epstein, et al., 2009). Compared with Georgia, Michigan has more funds to spend on potentially higher return projects, such as prenatal-to-age-3 programs for at-risk children.

RESPONSE TO THE CRITICS OF A TARGETED APPROACH
In this section, we respond to several criticisms of targeted preschool programs.

Targeted Approach Will Not Garner Political Support
Proponents for universal preschool claim that programs with broad eligibility build a stronger base of political support than targeted preschool. They point to the lack of political backing for programs that support low-income families, including Head Start. However, Americans generally accept and support targeting college scholarships and other ?nancial aid to students from low-income families. The public understands that targeting college ?nancial aid helps support the country's work force and democracy. Similarly, we argue th at the public will back targeted preschool as a pillar of human capital development.

Business leaders recognize the high rate of return to targeting at-risk children. For example, the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (2009), with a board of directors that includes key state business leaders, funds research to learn what works best and is cost effective to promote learning readiness among at-risk children. Furthermore, universal preschool is not a silver bullet to gain political support. The defeat of California's Proposition 82 in 2006 was an indication that voters are not necessarily swayed by arguments for universal preschool (Institute of Government Studies, n.d.).

Targeted Approach Precludes Integrated Classrooms
Targeted approaches can provide integrated programs where children from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds attend. A targeted program can be integrated into the existing system of public and private preschools and child care programs. For example, a scholarship program gives low-income families the opportunity to enroll their children free or at a reduced rate with children from higher income families who pay up to full price.

Targeted Approach Requires Means Testing, Which Is Dif?cult to Administer
Although there is a cost to means testing preschool applicants, the application process can be simpli?ed to make it easier for families to navigate. Quali?cation for the preschool program can be linked to eligibility for other means-tested programs, such as temporary ?nancial assistance for families or child care subsidies. We argue that the cost of means-testing families is small relative to the benefits achieved from a targeted program.

Targeted Approach Creates Stigma
Universal advocates claim that targeted preschool stigmatizes low-income families who qualify for the program. Stigma is affected by how targeted programs are presented to the public and eligible families. Stigma is not generally associated with scholarships and ?nancial aid for lower income children to attend college. Instead, college scholarships and ?nancial aid are viewed as a key opportunity both by the public and eligible students. Therefore, targeted preschool should be portrayed primarily as an opportunity to invest in young children, not as a support to low-income families.

Targeted Approach Is Dif?cult to Bring to Scale and Reach All Eligible Children
Finally, we agree with universal proponents that reaching low-income families is a challenge, but we disagree that means testing is the primary deterrent. A number of low-income families face several challenges, including housing and employment. Reaching these families takes focused resources, including exposure at a number of locations and outreach workers on the ground, regardless of whether the program is targeted or universal. We argue that a targeted program frees up resources for intensive outreach compared with an overall more expensive universal program.

HOW TO TARGET RESOURCES FOR PRESCHOOL: A MARKET-BASED APPROACH

To achieve the high rate of return discussed previously, we argue that preschool must not only focus on at-risk children, but also emphasize parental involvement, start early, ensure high quality, and be scalable. To achieve these characteristics, a targeted preschool program would benefit from the ?exibility, innovation, and incentives that are inherent in markets. To that end, we propose creating an ECE endowment that would provide parent mentors and scholarships to families with at-risk children to attend a high-quality preschool program (Grunewald & Rolnick, 2006).

Parental involvement is a crucial ingredient in the success of ECE programs. When parents receive training in why and how to nurture their children, they are better able to support their children's development at home. Reaching children as early as possible is potentially most effective, as neuroscience research shows that the ?rst few years are critical to brain development. As with universal preschool models, targeted programs must ensure high quality. In addition, both models must be able to bring their offerings to scale. Head Start and state child care subsidy waiting lists show a large number of low-income children who could benefit from preschool.

A targeted market-based preschool system delivers these characteristics and addresses the concerns raised by proponents of universal preschool. Investing in universal preschool can de?ect funding from providing key parental outreach and education, such as home-visiting parent mentors, and from reaching children early. The model we propose begins with parent mentors with pregnant mothers; their children become eligible for scholarships when they turn age 3. We contend that a system that provides ECE from prenatal to kindergarten and includes a parent focus is more feasible and provides a higher rate of return than universal preschool.

A targeted market-based approach also frees up resources to recruit low-income families into the program, and by providing scholarships there is little stigma to participating in the program. In fact, receiving a scholarship can be empowering to the family. The administration and means testing of eligible children can be conducted ef?ciently, as discussed previously.

A pilot project of a parent mentor and scholarship model was implemented in St. Paul, Minnesota, with funding by the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation. Starting in January 2008, scholarships were provided to low-income families in two St. Paul neighborhoods with a high concentration of families living below or just above the poverty line. Early observations by evaluators suggested that participating parents were "enthusiastic about the scholarship program and reported how it benefited both their children and themselves" (Gaylor, Spiker, & Hebbeler, 2009, p. 21). Project data also suggested that intensive outreach efforts have been more successful in recruiting families than passive approaches. The model was designed to be scalable and applied in other communities and states around the country.

Preschool initiatives that provide resources to parents to enroll their children in preschool programs of their choice were also implemented in Denver, Colorado (http://www.dpp.org/), and Sioux Falls, South Dakota (http://seuw.org/StartingStrong.aspx). Data from these initiatives help to determine the effectiveness of a market-based approach to investing in preschool. Just like scholarships for higher education, scholarships for preschool can improve access to high-quality public and private programs for low-income children.

SUMMARY

Given that we have limited public resources, these resources should be allocated to initiatives with the highest rate of return. Hence, funding programs targeted to at-risk families should have priority over universal preschool programs. Furthermore, employing a market-based approach that targets resources to at-risk families in the form of parent mentors and scholarships to high-quality programs could readily achieve scalability and ensure long-term, high-return outcomes.

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