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W. Steven Barnett, (732), 445-9320,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Call for Charter Preschool Expansion Premature

Review raises concerns regarding efficacy, suggests more rigorous evaluation

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Sept. 16, 2014) – A recent report from the Pioneer Institute argues that a particular charter school model is successful and that charter approaches should be used for preschool expansion across the nation.  Specifically, the report suggests that AppleTree, a well-regarded early childhood program in the Washington D.C. area, be used as a model for large numbers of charter preschools. An academic review finds that the case may add to the preschool policy debates, but a more rigorous examination of the program is necessary.

Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, and Cynthia Lamy, a senior research fellow at NIEER, reviewed Seeds of Achievement: AppleTree's Early Childhood D.C. Charter Schools for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report, funded by the Pioneer Institute and written by Cara Stillings Candal, presents a case, based on anecdotes and basic data, that the AppleTree model is "unusually effective."

Despite a substantial body of research that finds high-quality preschool education can produce substantive impacts on learning, not all preschool programs have been equally successful.

In their review, Barnett and Lamy found that the program described in this case closely resembles the research-based approaches found in other highly effective publicly funded preschool models, but there are limitations to making the kind of claims that the report does to support expansion of preschool charters.

Additionally, the reviewers note that Seeds of Achievement needs to address some serious limitations before it can contribute significant positive recommendations to policy. "No data are presented on actual implementation of the model and we do not know its cost."

Furthermore, in their conclusion, Barnett and Lamy suggest that, for future reports, a more rigorous analysis of the fidelity of implementation, cost and impacts would be necessary to support the claims made. "We would certainly look forward to learning more, but for now, it would be highly premature to adopt either the model or the report's broader policy recommendations."

Read the full review at:

Find Seeds of Achievement: AppleTree's Early Childhood D.C. Charter Schools on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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