Monday, July 11, 2005

Arizona Punk'd

On MTV, "Punk'd" is a hidden camera show that tries to deceive celebrities. Host Ashton Kutcher usually succeeds.

In Arizona, "Punk'd" is the buzzword in an ad campaign that tries to deceive the public, funded by a group calling itself Early Childhood Arizona. Let's hope the real-life version turns out differently.

The campaign promotes state funding of "early childhood development programs," read all-day kindergarten, by drawing questionable connections between the programs and everything from high school dropout rates to poor test scores to the economic success of the bioscience industry in Arizona.

It seems spurious to link all-day kindergarten to far-flung benchmarks like economic growth, let alone the biosciences specifically, when the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has found that by third grade, there are no achievement differences between students who attended half-day kindergarten and those who attended full-day kindergarten. The findings of the NCES study echo the warnings of HeadStart co-founder Ed Zigler: early childhood education cannot solve problems like high school dropout rates and low test scores, as Early Childhood Arizona claims. These problems find their roots after students leave kindergarten, not before.

Early Childhood Arizona advocates a centralized and expanded bureaucracy to oversee early childhood education to "create positive synergy between existing early childhood education programs." But positive synergy is positively useless unless it creates incentives for schools to change, like empowering parents to make choices about their child's education.

If Arizonans believe the claims of Early Childhood Arizona, they, like Kutcher's celebrity marks, will find themselves punk'd.

No comments: