Seminar to explore impact of preschool

President Obama’s “Preschool for All” proposal has highlighted questions that have occupied the education policy community for years: Will expanding government-funded pre-kindergarten programs help children succeed in school? And if it will, are the benefits likely to be worth the costs?

Education economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach will shine some light on the issue Wednesday, Oct. 23, in a presentation at IU Bloomington. Schanzenbach is an associate professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Her talk, “The Impacts of Expanding Access to High-Quality Preschool,” will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Oak Room of the Indiana Memorial Union. It’s part of the Economics of Education Seminar series, sponsored by several IU academic units and organizations.

According to an abstract, Schanzenbach will report on a study that estimates the impact of “model” state preschool programs, such as those in Oklahoma and Georgia.

“For lower-income children, the state programs increase the likelihood of preschool enrollment, the amount of time spent with mothers on activities such as reading, and test performance as late as the eighth grade,” the abstract says. “For higher-income families, however, the programs shift children from private to public preschools, resulting in less of an impact on overall enrollment but a significant reduction in childcare expenses, and appear to have no effect on children’s test scores.”

The study also addresses questions about the impact of state-funded preschool on families: For example, do the programs make it more likely that mothers will hold jobs?

Schanzenbach is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her most recent research addresses the impact of school accountability and reform policies. In one example, she is studying the effect of school lunches and school-based physical activity on child obesity. An article she co-authored about the impact of elementary-school class size on later student attainment won the 2013 Raymond Vernon Memorial Award of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

For more information, see the Economics of Education Seminar series website.

 

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