No easy answers

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Science  10 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6325, pp. 568-571
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6325.568

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Bill de Blasio ran for mayor of New York City in 2013 on the promise of providing free preschool to every 4-year-old in the city. After he won, his administration went looking for a high-quality prekindergarten math curriculum, one vetted by researchers, that has improved the math skills of young children in other cities. In short, the mayor wanted something that "worked." In the end, school officials settled on Building Blocks, a program developed by mathematics education professors Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama, which had boosted student achievement in several other cities. But Building Blocks has a dismaying feature that is common to other preschool interventions: Children using it chalk up glowing initial results, only to see the gains fade over the next few years. The fade-out phenomenon has raised questions about how researchers and policymakers should evaluate interventions like Building Blocks, and whether they are asking the right questions.