The Obama administration's “blueprint” to Congress for rewriting the law commonly known as No Child Left Behind aims to encourage proven reform strategies and policy-making based on data and research. The problem is that it ignores the most rigorously evaluated and effective education reform of the last half-century: high-quality pre-kindergarten.
More than 50 years of research shows that high-quality pre-K is a proven strategy to improve children's cognitive, social and emotional skills; increase their educational attainment; close the achievement gap; and enhance the quality and productivity of the nation's workforce.
A recent analysis of 123 evaluations published in Columbia University's Teachers College Record determined that pre-K programs “provide a real and enduring benefit to children,” which persist beyond the early elementary years.
To close achievement gaps and prepare students for success in school and in college, the administration and Congress have a clear option: build funding and other incentives for pre-K into the nation's major education law.
This would multiply the effects of other education reforms and support states where leaders from both sides of the aisle have grown their state pre-K programs in recent years.
High-quality pre-K is the first step to education reform and an indispensible part of our nation's education system. Leaving pre-K behind in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as NCLB, would be a missed opportunity to improve our schools and adequately prepare our nation's children for success in school, work and life.
Read the latest report from the Pew Pre-K Now project: The Case for Pre-K in Education Reform.
This Op-ed originally appeared on the Washington Post Answer Sheet blog.