View Resources By:
View Resources By:
Vanderbilt Pre-K Study: You get what you pay for
Oct 05, 2015

Vanderbilt University’s study of Tennessee’s Voluntary Preschool Program evaluates a low quality early childhood program using a flawed methodology. Randomization was corrupted by noncompliance with the intended experimental protocol. The press release accompanying the report exaggerates the importance of the findings and the quality of the evidence.   


Many students assigned to treatment refused to cooperate and the  investigators were forced to use the very same non-experimental methods that they fault other studies for using. Their claim of program effect fadeout is a consequence of the control group catching up, not a decline in performance in the treated.


The real lesson from the program is that you get what you pay for, and Tennessee did not put much into its program. Low quality programs produce weak and even sometimes harmful results.


This study does not refute the strong evidence that high quality preschool programs—criticized by the authors as “too expensive”—more than pay for themselves in terms of ROI. 

Category  ROI
Investing in quality early childhood development for disadvantaged children from birth through age 5 will help prevent achievement deficits and produce better education, health, social and economic outcomes. Such investments will reduce the need for costly remediation and social spending while increasing the value, productivity and earning potential of individuals. In fact, every dollar invested in quality early childhood development for disadvantaged children produces a 7 percent to 10 percent return, per child, per year.
- Professor James Heckman
Thank you for visiting The Heckman Equation.
We are seeking feedback about your experience on our site today.
By completing this short survey, you will be providing us with valued insight
that will help us provide our users with the best web experience.
Thank you for your help.

Take The Survey