Before voting to spend another $23 million to expand More at Four, lawmakers should be required to read the Charlotte Observer article by Ann Doss Helms, “Does Bright Beginnings really work?” Helms shows how Bright Beginnings – which in part, served as the model for More at Four – was passed on the promise that CMS would track students throughout school. CMS has not followed through on its promise. Albeit, initial results show the program provided early educational benefits to disadvantaged children. Third grade math and reading scores reveal the gains of many disadvantaged students had shrunk considerably. The difficulties of keeping a control group together limited evidence about Bright Beginnings long term impacts. Despite the failed efforts at tracking and lack of positive evidence, the program continues to grow.
Sound familiar? More at Four has developed much the same way – and regrettably shows many of the same shortcomings. Helms notes that More at Four students are tracked only through kindergarten and also lack a viable control group. Just like Bright Beginnings, there were lots of promises from pre-school advocates but now there seems to be little proof. All the more reason to stop expanding More at Four and have it evaluated not by a UNC child development office, but by the Program and Evaluation Division of the General Assembly.