Electorally based policy

I recall my disappointment at the ALP’s taking the craze for early childhood intervention in the 2007 election and turning it into a generalised promise for earlier and more kindergarten.  Just think of how they could have spent that money on targeted intervention for at risk kids. Anyway I guessed that for all its waste, perhaps such universalism might just be a very expensive way to get to a worthwhile policy. But it ain’t necessarily so.

The Long-Run Impacts of Early Childhood Education: Evidence From a Failed Policy Experiment by Philip DeCicca, Justin D. Smith –  NBER Working Paper 17085 (ED)

We investigate short and long-term effects of early childhood education using variation created by a unique policy experiment in British Columbia, Canada. Our findings imply starting Kindergarten one year late substantially reduces the probability of repeating the third grade, and meaningfully increases in tenth grade math and reading scores. Effects are highest for low income students and males. Estimates suggest that entering kindergarten early may have a detrimental effect on future outcomes.

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conrad
conrad
10 years ago

I must admit that after reading that paper twice, I appear to have learnt absolutely nothing as to why these effects were found (or for that matter why maths is different to reading, for which there is no discussion at all). Am I missing something?

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

Thanks for that, I started wondering when I packed my middle child off for prep as we call it. My best guess was that the y12 outcomes would be unaffected at best and that the policy was mainly a way to introduce a year of universal childcare.

My sister teaching grade 1/2 thinks that the kiddies do get to her better prepared, but that does not mean there will be a difference at the other end of the pipeline.

Part of the reason I wondered about it was from a twin studies book I bought in the 90s. Now I see Bryan Caplan has a book making the same general case about genetic determinism. Currently suffering through a bad year 1 teacher in what is supposedly about the best primary school in the state (she’s new and was transferred for a disadvantaged area) I am of course worrying about the shocking set back. Yet, in my heart of hearts I can’t shake the belief that for most kids school (as in choice and quality) is not a material influence.

I was just 4 when I walked through the gate for grade 1, imagine if mum had kept me home an extra year.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

Pedro,

I wouldn’t put too much faith in Bryan Caplan’s reading of the literature — I think that people say these things so it sounds good to the general public and because people like dichotomous arguments since they can understand them without complex statistics or too much thought (cf. 18% of the variance is explained by X, but this interacts with A, B, and C, and so the function is not-linear — Imagine trying to sell a book to the general public with that in it).

If it was all or mainly genetic, then things like how and what you should teach your children shouldn’t matter too much. However, if you look within the range of what and how things are being taught then a reasonable amount of variation can be found. For example, Andrew Leigh had some nice data on mathematics skills now and 20 year agos from Australia (I’n not sure what he did with it), and what you find is a different distribution and an overall shift to the left. So you have essentially the same population in terms of genetics, with both being taught what is thought to be a reasonable curriculum, but they produce different results. The same is true if you look at the way kids learn to read. The way you teach them makes a big difference. If it didn’t and the variation was mainly down to genetics we wouldn’t need to think too hard about this.

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

Conrad, I certainly don’t think my kids are destined for stupidity through their unfortunate inheiritance from me. The twin studies are interesting in showing the powerful effects of genetics, but I don’t think anyone claims you could lock A Einstein Jnr in a cage and get relativity mark II.

My comment about schools is based on a belief that most schools are pretty good and that a smart kid will do ok anywhere and a dumb kid will fluck out of the best school in the land.