Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Preschool promises: Starting early on a new educational agenda for the United States

22.10.2010
Two children, both age 3, enroll in publicly funded preschool. But they may have vastly different experiences: One child may attend preschool for 8 hours a day and be taught by a teacher with a bachelor's degree while the other child may be in preschool for only a few hours a day, under the supervision of a teacher with a 2-year degree. Why is there so much variability and are these programs meeting their potential for adequately preparing youngsters for school?

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 pianta@virginia.edu.

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 kchiodo@psychologicalscience.org.

Keri Chiodo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

More articles from Science Education:

nachricht The classroom of tomorrow – DFKI and TUK open lab for new digital teaching and learning methods
03.05.2018 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

nachricht Studying outdoors is better
06.02.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Science Education >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Space-like gravity weakens biochemical signals in muscle formation

23.05.2018 | Life Sciences

NIST puts the optical microscope under the microscope to achieve atomic accuracy

23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Magnesium magnificent for plasmonic applications

23.05.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>