Dale Farran, a researcher at Vanderbilt University, has been watching closely how that money is spent in Tennessee. She argues the programs there are flawed, and unlikely to move the needle for the poor kids who need them most.
What’s worse, Farran says, is that across states, nobody’s really watching the store when it comes to quality, so these mistakes are likely to be repeated.
“I’m so old I’m getting really grumpy about this,” she says. “I have cared about this for such a long time and it’s just making me crazy.” Farran outlines her criticisms in a new paper for the Brookings Institution.
Farran’s research team visited 139 preschool classrooms in the Memphis area and Nashville, all funded by the federal grant program. They observed the classes for a full 6 to 8 hour day to see just how the teachers and students spent their time. This is really important, because we know from other research that high quality preschool means lots of choice-based play in centers, small group instruction, and outdoor or gym play so that young children can move their bodies.