Readers React

L.A. Unified's ill-advised axing of successful preschool program

To the editor: Although The Times published nice photos of children in a School Readiness Language Development Program at Dorris Place Elementary School, the message about the dim future of this quality Los Angeles Unified School District program was buried in the middle of the article. ("Programs aim to boost preschool educations for low-income children," May 26)

Despite the fact that good preschool programs are few in California (especially in neighborhoods with lower-income families) and that our president has called for additional money to be spent on preschool education, L.A. Unified can't find the dollars to continue this program that has guided parents and children for more than 30 years. The district has been chipping away at this program for years; now it proposes to dismantle it altogether.

Your article says 8,000 letters in support of the program have been written. Too bad your article did not lead with that fact and stress the poor choice district leaders are making when research and a proven program of success fail to guide their decisions.

Paula Mahan, Venice

The writer is a former SRLDP teacher.

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To the editor: Although preschool has great intuitive appeal, it is not nearly as successful as widely believed.

In December 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a 346-page final report about the Head Start Program, a federal program that focuses on early childhood education. It concluded that the initial benefits of the program faded by the end of third grade. In short, the $200 billion or so spent over 47 years did not produce lasting benefits.

If universal preschool is to produce better outcomes, it's imperative that the programs offered are high-quality. Otherwise, it's unlikely that the results will be any better.

Walt Gardner, Los Angeles

Gardner is author of Education Week's Reality Check blog.

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