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New Study Says Kindergarten a Waste of Time

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Early education might not be the ticket to success.


While debt-ridden California is struggling with the fact that kindergarten class-sizes are continuing to grow (and teachers everywhere are being laid off), a new study now says that kindergarten is not as crucial as most parents would like to think.

According to Dartmouth economics professor Elizabeth Cascio, "enrolling students in kindergarten and other early-education programs may have little effect on their future success." Currently, kindergarten is not mandatory in all states.

The study looked at the "relative success" of kids born between 1954 and 1978 in 24 states. Cascio found that kindergarten attendance had little to no effect on students' future achievement. In fact, there was no strong correlation found between kindergarten attendance and higher salaries after graduation from high school.

The study comes at a time when districts are debating whether to expand universal education to include preschool -- which is why Cascio believes it can be used as a tool to determine if the benefits of early education outweigh the costs. "If we want to look at the [potential] long-term effects of proposed programs," she says, "it is useful to look at the long-term effects of past programs."

Cascio admits that the results of her study might change dramatically if preschool becomes mandatory. "The truth will only be discovered in the years to come," she says.

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20 comments so far | Post a comment now
mollysmom March 8, 2010, 2:02 PM

if it’s such a waste of time then why are kids learning to read in kindergarten?! at least they are here in texas.

Sara March 8, 2010, 2:45 PM

I’m sure it is a waste of time if the child has parents that are teaching them at home. I’m sure you could do a study that said that kids that weren’t enrolled in second grade were just as likely to graduate from high school because the kids that aren’t enrolled are being taught at home.

However, the later kids start the later you catch those who don’t have parents teaching them at home and then those kids suffer. Also, there have been many studies that show that kids that attend pre-school do better as a whole than those that don’t.

Carolyn March 8, 2010, 3:34 PM

Waste of time? Are they kidding? In California, if you don’t go to kindergarten you will NEVER get through 1st grade. Kids here are expected to read, write and know numbers to 100 PRIOR to entering 1st grade. If the states are thinking of getting rid of kindergarten that means parents will have to homeschool prior to 1st grade. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of public school teaching our kids? Might as well cut out schools altogether.

Anonymous March 9, 2010, 5:35 AM

As a former teacher I’d have to say if kids have already been in pre-school, then yes, Kindergarten can be somewhat repetitive (not necessarily a waste)

However, kids who have only been home absolutely NEED kindergarten to learn the basics and become socialized. Regardless of any instruction given at home, moms aren’t teachers and we can usually spot the kids who haven’t had any pre-school or been around larger groups of kids.

jen March 9, 2010, 6:30 AM

What? you base this on whether children show future achievement? This is a joke!!! This is a child’s starting point in learning the basic’s! It’s like prerequisite courses in college….you have to refresh or learn the basics. Let’s just throw them all in first grade and see how well they fail at instruction and assignments. Let’s be honest…did the research study come up because of a budget or for the benifit of our children? I would say saving money to the government is more important then setting our children up for sucess! Kidergarden teaches school structure and rules before they are actually put in a more structured 1st grade environment, how is that not helpful for the children’s sucess?

lovetamale March 9, 2010, 7:22 AM

My son is in kidergarten, and he is now reading, counting and recognizing numbers to 100, and learning all sorts of other skills that he would not otherwise know. Even if he was home with me, I wouldn’t even think of working on all the things with him that he learns in school. I guarantee it is not wasting his time being in kindergarten. What a shame that you printed this article. I really hope nobody falls for it. If my son started first grade without learning what he has learned in kindergarten, he would be lost, and would never catch up. And, my son is actually one of the more advanced ones in his class, because he catches on quick. I would really hate to see how other children would perform without a kindergarten education. This article is full of cr*p, I can tell you from personal experience.

lovetamale March 9, 2010, 7:25 AM

Oh, and they were looking at the relative success of kids born way back when I was born. But, when I was in kindergarten, we just learned abc’s and played games, and things of that sort. Now, kindergarten is like first grade was back then. So, really, there is no comparison. We did not learn an eighth of what my son is learning in kindergarten. I am so surprised how much they do really teach these kids now, and very pleased, as well.

sharie March 9, 2010, 8:28 AM

Are you kidding me? My son is in Kindergarten and is now doing math and reading at a first-grade level.

Cheryl D. March 9, 2010, 9:30 AM

Is this study still relevant? Kindergarten during the study dates of 1954 to 1978 is very different than kindergarten today! Kindergarten was more like what preschool is today. I can’t imagine a six-year-old who didn’t attend kindergarten entering into the first grade and being expected to catch up. I get pretty angry when these studies are done without the “common sense” factor. I understand why the study had to go back so far (because they wanted to measure success in the workforce today), but it’s such a huge limitation to the methodology! The study should say that there was no difference for people who attended kindergarten between 32 and 54 years. However, this is probably no longer the case! LOL!

Black Iris March 9, 2010, 11:15 AM

The kids in the study probably all had at-home moms, since it was for kids born between 1954 and 1978. I don’t think you can compare it to today.

Anonymous March 9, 2010, 11:53 AM

Black Iris - actually its the kids who have at-home moms who NEED kindergarten. It’s more of a waste of time for kids who have already had pre-school.

Christina March 9, 2010, 4:15 PM

Anonymous - Please re-read Black Iris’ comment. She was not discussing children with SAHPs. She was referring to the children in the study who were all born between 1954 and 1978.

Anonymous March 10, 2010, 5:00 AM

Christina - Please re-read Black Iris’ comment - she clearly states The kids in the study probably all had at-home moms” (yes in the 50s-70s) but saying that that is why the study concluded that those w/stay home moms kindergarten was a waste.

michelle March 10, 2010, 8:19 AM

All the commenters who said “of course K is useful because my kid learned to read” totally did not understand the point of this study. The study found no LASTING benefit from kindergarten, and therefore no real reason kids have to learn to read AT AGE 5 as opposed to age 6 or 7. And I can believe that. In Finland and many other high-achieving countries, children start school around age 7, but the emphasis is on an overall high-quality, rigorous education. In the US, we push early reading (which does not correlate to later success), but the educational outcomes are not better for earlier readers, and overall we are not an academically high-achieving country.

Julie March 10, 2010, 11:27 AM

My son is in kindergarten and has made huge advancements academically since he started in September. I think he has grown from his experience.

However, I have also seen how challenging school can be for him. I live in a city that has extremely high academic standards and I see evidence of this in my son’s schoolwork. He has been stressed out by schoolwork and we have had to hug out several crying jags. At times like this, I have him step back from his schoolwork and we celebrate what he was able to do. His teacher supports me in this.

Even though this year has been a challenge, the rewards have been great. His self-confidence is high, he feels good about his progress, and he has also found that he has a knack for math and enjoys solving math problems.

Kindergarten may be a “waste of time,” but I feel that it has been good for my family.

Leah March 11, 2010, 4:47 AM

“In Finland and many other high-achieving countries, children start school around age 7” Actually in those European countries where primary school is started at age 7 it is because the majority of children are in government subsidized pre-school education from age 2 on - so technically they have already had kindergarten and can immediately go to grade 1. If they havent’ they are required a year of “pre-primary” which we would call kindergarten. They also have longer school days and most schools are year round. Europe does have superior educational systems from birth through college.

frharry March 11, 2010, 6:59 AM

1. Why would a study by a Dartmouth economics professor of kindergarten be particularly credible? The programs were hardly uniform. And the future earnings of post-secondary former kindergarteners may say little to nothing about the impact of kindergarten. We need more than a mere correlation here to draw a causal link.

2. Why does the link to the study bring up ads for Kaplan?

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