Research suggests that more time in school boosts students’ skills and long-term prospects, but adding productive time to students’ days often means cutting time from their teachers’. And that lost teacher planning and training time, research shows, also matters.
Innovations in technology and how teachers can monitor students’ progress, along with changes to regulations about how long students must spend in class, have made it possible for schools and districts to adopt “competency-based” models in an effort to use students’ time in school more effectively. But implementation varies widely, particularly around whether to do away with traditional grade levels.
Politicians and advocates alike have seized on research that says starting school young offers lasting dividends — as well as on the political expediency of promising a benefit to every voter. As they have, the meaning of “universal” preschool has become, well, not so universal.