In a new report in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Robert C. Pianta (University of Virginia), W. Steven Barnett (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey), Margaret Burchinal (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and Kathy R. Thornburg (University of Missouri) review the current state of publicly funded preschool, what science has taught us about early childhood education, and offer suggestions for improving efficacy of these programs.
The programs that fall under the category of "publicly supported preschool education" (e.g., child care centers, Head Start, and state-funded pre-kindergarten) have such a wide variety of basic aims, funding, program models, and staff qualifications, it almost seems as though no two preschool programs are alike.
"Overall, preschool in the United States is a stunningly complex, wide-ranging, and highly varied assortment of early care and educational offerings that take place in very diverse settings and with often inadequate resources that are also constrained in how they may be used," Pianta and his colleagues write. One reason for this variability is differences in the major government programs that fund them. For example, pre-kindergarten is often supported at the state and local levels while Head Start standards and regulations are determined at the federal level.
Despite all of these differences, numerous studies have shown that preschool improves the learning and development of young children, and that the benefits of preschool are long-lasting: Enrollment in preschool has been associated with less grade repetition, higher rates of high school graduation, and improved social behavior. Children from low-income homes in particular benefit from preschool education in comparison with their peers from high-income homes.
However, the magnitude of the benefits depends on the quality of the program: On average, due to the prevalence of low-quality preschool programs, preschool in the U.S. narrows the achievement gap by perhaps only 5% rather than the 30% to 50% that research suggests might be possible on a large scale if all preschool programs were of higher quality.
Although "quality" can refer to a number of factors, research indicates that the most important factor in determining quality of preschool programs may be what teachers do, and how they do it, when interacting with children. The authors note that "effective teaching in early childhood education requires skillful combinations of explicit instruction, sensitive and warm interactions, responsive feedback, and verbal engagement or stimulation intentionally directed to ensure children's learning while embedding these interactions in a classroom environment that is not overly structured or regimented."
Professional development of preschool teachers may result in improved interactions with the students, which may lead to considerable skill gains in children. However, professional development can take many forms, and public funds devoted to teacher development must be used in ways that are beneficial to students and teachers (as suggested by research), not in ways that are merely convenient to professional-development providers.
The authors show that to ensure that publicly funded preschool programs adequately prepare every child for school, public policy and practice need to align more closely with research on early childhood education. They conclude, "Increased public investment in effective preschool education programs for all children can produce substantial educational, social, and economic benefits, but only if the investments are in programs in which teaching is highly effective."
For more information about this study, please contact: Robert C. Pianta at email@example.com.
Psychological Science in the Public Interest is a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. It publishes an eclectic mix of thought-provoking articles on the latest important advances in psychology. For a copy of the article "The Effects of Preschool Education: What We Know, How Public Policy Is or Is Not Aligned With the Evidence Base, and What We Need to Know" and access to other Psychological Science in the Public Interest research findings, please contact Keri Chiodo at 202-293-9300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keri Chiodo | EurekAlert!
Studying outdoors is better
06.02.2018 | Technische Universität München
Classroom in Stuttgart with Li-Fi of Fraunhofer HHI opened
03.11.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
20.02.2018 | Life Sciences
20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering
20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy