Read a roundtable with its founders here, or see new stories in the Human Interest section. If you are reading this article, your kid probably doesn’t need preschool. One morning last September, my husband dragged himself out of bed at 5 a. The moonlit block was empty but for the first seeds of a sleepy line forming outside the school’s doors—he was the sixth person to the advantages of preschool education it.
It wouldn’t be New York if preschool admissions, or any admissions, were easy. Waldorf preschool versus a Montessori one, little Emma isn’t going to suffer either way. It’s hard to tease out the effects of preschool on a child. Part of the problem is self-selection: Compared with kids who skip preschool, kids who attend usually have more well-to-do, encouraging parents who read and do puzzles with them at home. But research suggests that parents who are financially comfortable tend to devote more resources and time to their kids, in part because they can. But what does all this have to do with preschool?
For instance, in a study published last year, University of Texas psychologist Elliot Tucker-Drob assessed a number of different characteristics in a group of more than 600 pairs of twins. A hell of a lot of math later, Tucker-Drob reported that the home environments of children who do not attend preschool have a much larger influence on kindergarten academic ability than do the home environments of preschoolers. This is not to say that parents who have money can do anything they want and their kids will be fine. We all know plenty of horrible adults who were once rich kids. So if preschool doesn’t really matter for advantaged kids, then the type of preschool matters even less.