Term Paper: Preschool and Kindergarten Success

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[. . .] Key findings include those on the influence of preschool on cognitive and social development as impacting educational outcomes,

Influence on Cognitive and Social Development

The results of a study conducted by Peisner-Feinberg, Burchinal, Clifford, Culkin, Howes, Kagan and Yazejian (2001) helped to clearly document the influence of preschool participation on educational outcomes in kindergarten and beyond. The study was a part of the Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers study has been examining the quality of preschool settings and its relation to child developmental and educational outcomes by following children from preschool through elementary school in eight states since 1993. The sample used in the study consisted of 183 classrooms randomly selected from a total of 401. The children participating in these preschool classrooms were followed for a period of 5 years, with the analysis sample include 733 children in preschool year 1, 499 in preschool year 2, 2399 in kindergarten and 345 in second grade. The research methods employed by the researchers consisted of both classroom observation as well as the use of multiple measures intended to measure classroom environment and quality, child cognitive and social outcome measures, child reading and math skills measures, teacher survey, and parent surveys.

The results of the study of relevance to this study included the following:

High-quality child care has a long-term effect on children's language skills, math skills, and attention skills through second grade. In addition, children in high-quality settings in preschool showed greater sociability and fewer problem behaviors in second grade. These benefits are even more pronounced for at-risk children, particularly in the areas of math skills and problem behaviors.

Different classroom practices such as the smoothness of transitions between activities in the classroom, the provision of a safe and respectful climate for children, the amount of cross-disciplinary connection between subjects, the social support for student learning and student engagement, are related to children's academic and language skills through second grade.

Close teacher-child relationships (which are characterized by high levels of teacher sensitivity and responsiveness to children) are related to better language skills, attention skills, and social skills, and fewer behavioral problems through second grade.

Similar findings were reported by Campbell, Pungello, Miller-Johnson, Burchinal & Ramey (2001) in their study of the Abecedarian Project. The study was initiated more than twenty years ago and has followed over one hundred low-income children from infancy to young adulthood. As reported by the researchers, of the 111 infants originally involved in the study, 57 were assigned to an early intervention child care program and 54 received care in some other setting. Each child in the early intervention program had an individualized program of educational activities which was designed to enhance social, emotional, and cognitive development. Children in the program received at least five years of this specialized care until they left the program for kindergarten.

On the basis of ongoing measurement, the researchers reported that children who participated in the intervention program had higher cognitive test scores from the toddler years through the age of 21, as well as higher academic achievement in reading and math from the primary grades through young adulthood. In addition, the children from the intervention program completed more years of education and were more likely to attend a four-year college than the children who did not participate in the intervention program.

Influence of Home and Parental Factors

Findings from the NCES Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey, as reported in the National Education Goals Panel (NEGP) Monthly (2001), have suggested that there is an achievement gap that can be identified as early as the fall of the a child's first year in kindergarten. For the purposes of the study, a sample of 22,000 children from 1000 public and private kindergartens who had previously participated in preschool participated in the study. One-on-one assessments were conducted with children and parents were administered questionnaires as were teachers and school administrators. The set of measures used by NCES were developed by NEGP and covered the five dimensions of development: physical well-being and motor development; social and emotional development; approaches toward learning; language usage; and cognition and general knowledge.

As reported within the NEGP Monthly (2001), the study found that kindergartners' levels of achievement vary depending on the students' age, family type, parents' education, primary language spoken in the home, and race/ethnicity. The study did not find a significant difference between boys' and girls' developmental status at school entry. As noted in the report, this finding is interesting in that previous studies have shown relatively large differences in the academic success of boys and girls at the fourth grade level. The new data suggests, then, that this gender gap is the result of something, which begins during the elementary school years.

The NCES study is important for inclusion within this study as it helps to document that the degree to which participation in preschool may influence a child's educational outcomes in kindergarten may be influenced by critical factors other than the child's preschool participation. If the findings of the NCES study were taken at face value only, one could assume that preschool participation does little to aid children in readiness for kindergarten. However, the findings clearly point to the need to control for factors such as students' age, family type, parents' education, primary language spoken in the home, and race/ethnicity in determining the impact of preschool participation on educational outcomes. While the quality of preschool experience may be extensive, if other factors operate more strongly in influencing educational outcomes, such factors must also be taken into account when considering the overall impact of preschool participation. As well, the findings from the NCES study suggest that policy makers must begin to concentrate on students' age, family type, parents' education, primary language spoken in the home, and race/ethnicity when designing and developing preschool programs in an effort to better prepare children for kindergarten.

Influence on Long-Term Educational Outcomes

Barnett (2001) conducted a meta-analysis of 37 studies conducted on the relationship of preschool participation and long-term educational outcomes to further examine whether prior research findings that had suggested that long-term positive educational outcomes were the result of socialization more so than preschool history. Such studies had concluded that the effects of preschool participation fade-out over time and that socialization become a better predictor of educational success. The 37 studies selected for review were selected for inclusion if they met four criteria: (1) children entered the program as preschoolers (in Head Start this could include some five-year-olds prior to the availability of kindergarten); (2) the program served economically disadvantaged children; (3) at least one measure of achievement or school success was collected at or beyond age eight (Grade 3); and, (4) the research design identified treatment and no-treatment groups from program records. As explained by Barnett, the requirement for follow-up through third grade allowed sufficient time to observe the fade-out in effects that is widely believed to occur.

As reported by Barnett (2001), all 37 studies represented research of educational interventions, although five investigated model programs that provided services through full-day child care. The studies can be divided into two categories: one for small-scale research models, the other for large-scale public programs. In 15 studies, researchers developed model programs to study the effects of controlled treatments. In 22 other studies, researchers investigated the effects of on-going, large-scale public programs: 10 studied Head Start programs, eight examined public school programs, and four studied a mix of Head Start and public school programs.

As reported by Barnett (2001), the findings of the study were mixed as to long-term effects of preschool on IQ. Some found that IQ effects were sustained at least until school entry while others found that the estimated effects on IQ were moderate. Still others did not measure changes in IQ. As concluded by Barnett, on the basis of the findings, it appeared as though changes and long-term outcomes associated with IQ were based more on the intensity of the preschool program in which children participated, suggesting that very early intensive preschool interventions may have more fundamental or general effects on the cognitive development of children, particular those living in poverty.

In relation to achievement, as reported by Barnett (2001), the long-term effects of preschool participation on achievement also varied considerably across studies based on type of preschool program under investigation. Overall, the findings suggested that preschool participation influences long-term positive achievement outcomes. As concluded by Barnett, much of the variation in findings regarding long-term effects on achievement across programs may be best accounted for by differences in research methods and procedures employed within the different studies. According to Barnett, detailed analyses indicated that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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