In the early 1990s, it was all the rage for expecting parents to play hours of classical music before childbirth. When articles first appeared in scholarly journals, the melodies of Mozart and Beethoven became popular to reportedly boost the IQ levels of children through exposure in utero.
Today, classical music for parents remains a hot seller, though more recent research has largely debunked the “Mozart effect.” For example, Scientific American Magazine reported here that a 1999 meta-analysis on 16 studies related to the use of classical music found that the IQ boost provided was only one and a half IQ points and limited to a paper-folding task.
Fast forward to 2002, when Florida led the way for another trend aimed at giving young children an intellectual jumpstart – this one based upon widespread public support and much less-controversial research.
Voters passed a ballot initiative, with 58.6 percent in favor, to establish “an early childhood development and education program which should be voluntary, high-quality, free and delivered according to professionally accepted standards.” This language to offer free universal preschool was enshrined in the Florida Constitution under Article IX, Section I. In a nutshell, the voters said this: parental empowerment at the onset of each child’s education is essential to later academic success.
In January 2005, Gov. Jeb Bush signed the law creating the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) Program. The overarching goal: to build a solid foundation for academic success by preparing Florida four-year olds for kindergarten and life in general. Scholarships were made available on a free, opt-in basis for the Florida parents of a child who turns four by September 1 of that (or subsequent) school years. The law required 540 instructional hours for the school-year program, which typically translates into a three-hour day, at a school of the parent’s choice.
During the program’s first school year, in 2005-06, VPK scholarships were set at $2,500 per child. Approximately 107,000 children were enrolled; this represented slightly less than half the eligible population of four-year olds in the state. During the current school year, the program is expected to serve 153,045 students or nearly 75 percent of the eligible children, according to July 2015 data from the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Continue Reading →