Term Paper: Early Childhood Education, From Preschool

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[. . .] If school systems and educational philosophies were more sensitive to cultural variables and acknowledged the importance of relationship building, then preschool programs would be more universally effective. As they stand now, though, the model of preschool development lacks the type of community and parental involvement that would make them universally accessible or universally beneficial.

One of the main sources of resistance to developing effective preschool programs in the United States is the dysfunctional belief that "such intervention would signal a failure on the part of the family," (Bracey & Stellar, 2003, p. 780). An unfortunate vicious cycle has emerged, according to Bracey & Stellar (2003) in which "parents resist government intervention in the education of young children on ideological grounds; the government, for its part, doesn't produce high-quality day care; parental resistance to government day care solidifies because of the low quality of the care," (Bracey & Stellar, 2003, p. 780). As a result, there is little support for the implementation of evidence-based preschool programs that might work to help all students reach their highest potential in all areas. Contrary to educational policy trends in other wealthy nations like Sweden, the United States seems to be peddling backwards in terms of scaling back efforts to implement preschool funding and create the types of preschool programs that have proven to be effective in multiple research scenarios. Even so, Barnett & Hustedt (2003) state that as many as three-fourths of young children in the United States participate in a preschool program of some type. This includes publically funded programs like Head Start, which focus on non-white students and other systematically disadvantaged groups, as well as private programs that middle and upper-middle class families have typically taken advantage of.

Research unequivocally substantiates the claim that when it is executed correctly and in accordance with evidence, preschool programs do benefit all children. However, underprivileged children stand to gain the most from preschool. "Evidence suggests that children's school readiness, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, is enhanced in prekindergarten programs during the year before kindergarten (Chien, et al., 2010, p. 1534). Chien, et al. (2010) focused on the specific variable of classroom engagement, comparing control groups with experimental groups of disadvantaged children who had attended preschool programs. As Bridges (n.d.) found in a review of literature, Chien et al., (2010) found that the higher quality preschool programs (qualified by rich social engagement, parental involvement, long duration, and moderate intensity) had the net greatest benefit on dependent variables such as child academic performance and classroom engagement. Chien, et al. (2010) also found that a child-centered, or person-centered, approach is positively correlated with preschool program effectiveness. Scaffold learning methods were also examined, and shown to be particularly effective in preschool.

The short-term benefits of preschool education have been "well established" in the literature (Bridges, n.d., p. 208). There are "substantial gains" in terms of academic success, and for the most part, those successes are lasting (Barnett & Hustedt, 2003, p. 54). Success measures include not only the dependent variable of short-term and long-term academic performance in school. While standardized tests and school grades are important quantitative measures, which are helpful for determining program efficacy, there are also a host of other quantitative and qualitative variables that are associated with preschool success. Those variables include short-term gains such as reduced placements in "special education" classes for students with behavioral problems; and a reduction in students being held back a grade (Barnett & Hutstedt, 2003; Bridges, n.d.). Students who attend preschool also demonstrate long-term success in terms of being less likely to be on welfare as adults (Barnett & Hutstedt, 2003). Finally, participants in preschool programs have fewer delinquency and criminal justice problems (Barnett & Hutstedt, 2003' Bridges, n.d.). This review of literature highlights some of the key variables associated with preschool success: both the variables that comprise an effective preschool program, and the variables used to measure the success of those programs.

References

Barnett, W.S. & Hustedt, J.T. (2003). Preschool: The Most Important Grade. Educational Leadership. April 2003.

Bracey, G.W. & Stellar, A. (2003). Long-term studies of preschool: Lasting benefits far outweigh costs. Phi Delta Kappan, June 2003.

Bridges, M. (n.d.). Which children benefit from preschool? Chapter 6 in ?

Chien, N.C., Howes, C., Pianta, R.C., Burchinal, M., Ritchie, S., Bryant, D.M., Clifford, R.M., Early, D.M. & Barbarin, O.A. (2010). Children's classroom engagement and school readiness gains in prekindergarten. Child Development 81(5): 1534-1549.

Margetts, K. (2007). Preparing children for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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