Parents of preschoolers wonder whether attending preschool makes a big difference to young, developing people.
The country’s leading researchers, who have spent their careers in early childhood education provide this resounding message: Children who attend high-quality preschool are better prepared for kindergarten than children who do not.
In this article, I look at the findings of key reports taken from the last 10 years of study and draw conclusions on how we can use their findings to improve preschool education quality at Happy Bunnies Child Care School.
There may be some debate about how late into a child’s life these effects last. However, there is widespread agreement that the effects are very real.
The Brookings Institution Report (2017)
On April 17, 2017, The Brookings Institution released a report entitled, “The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects“.
Some key points from that report’s findings (source: Duke University):
- Studies of different groups of preschoolers often find greater improvement in learning at the end of the pre-k year for economically disadvantaged children and dual language learners than for more advantaged and English-proficient children.
- Pre-k programs are not equally effective. Several effectiveness factors may be at work in the most successful programs.
- Children’s early learning trajectories depend on the quality of their learning experiences not only before and during their pre-k year but also following the pre-k year.
Zhai, Raver, and Jones (2012)
In 2012, Zhai, Raver, and Jones performed a study using data from the Chicago Readiness Project, a cluster-randomized controlled trial.
Their study, entitled “Academic performance of subsequent schools and impacts of early interventions: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial in Head Start settings,” specifically compared the impact of preschool quality on a child’s later development.
Looking at interventions to improve the quality of Head Start programs, they found that “development persisted even after attending relatively high-quality elementary schools (also to measure students’ test scores).“
However, they also noted, “No intervention effects on children attending low-performing schools.”
Academic introduction at the preschool level assists those children who then go on to develop those skills further. Learning is a lifelong occupation!
The Wider Effects of Early Childhood Education
Scientists and researchers tend to focus on how early childhood education programs impact academic performance. What are the characteristics of these programs that most influence children by influencing their classroom experiences?
Preschool programs can affect not only school performance, but also have other consequences, some of which may persist beyond performance and cognitive effects. Most early childhood education studies that track children at the end of treatment have found that the impact on test scores fades over time.
Based on such findings, one might expect that children with high academic attainment will find early development better and that they will be able to interact with children of such high quality.
Effective teaching in early childhood education requires a deliberate, directed effort to ensure that children learn by embedding interactions in a classroom environment that is not overly structured or regulated.
It’s important to have a broad-based curriculum at the preschool level. It’s essential for that curriculum to be flexible, promote individuality, and to develop themes that resonate with each child.
Unfortunately, preschool teachers are rarely exposed to examples based on objectively defined, high-quality practices. They receive little or no feedback on how their classroom interactions and teaching enhance skills in these areas.
Several well-controlled studies looked at whether preschool attendance can promote educational development and have long-term benefits for children and communities. Many of these studies have shown that high-quality preschools improve children’s results in their first year of life. Taken together, the studies suggest that early childhood may be one of the most important areas of education in the United States. Theory and social science evidence show a strong correlation between early childhood education and children’s ability to get into primary school.
In interviews, teachers reported that there was a strong correlation between writing in preschool-age children and research-based curricula for writing in early education. This is in line with the preschool teachers’ “view of writing, including the interests and enjoyment of the child.”
The Importance of a Broad Preschool Curriculum
Teachers understand that preschool children are not logical in the adult sense of the word. Their ability to think creatively, grow plants, and understand why people are getting older may not have cause and effect. It’s only through a broad, multi-faceted approach that we help preschoolers develop as individuals.
Preschool helps children develop self-confidence and independence by providing them with a space to learn appropriate class behavior at a young age. High-quality preschool programs introduce children to the behaviors necessary for successful functioning in a kindergarten room. If your child feels comfortable in the classroom, he will thrive in kindergarten.
However, the whole of preschool should never be reduced to the simple academic preparation of children for kindergarten. Preschool programs that only prepare children for kindergarten completely miss the point and take so much more out of young children.
Almost all research in this area shows that teachers need to be well trained to let children experience preschool’s lasting benefits. Wholly academic preschool is misguided. High-quality preschool is about a balanced curriculum, leading to well-rounded individuals.
Children in high-quality preschool programs are less likely to repeat a class, need special education, or get into trouble with the law in the future.
Find Out More About The Happy Bunnies Approach
Happy Bunnies Child Care School has a well-developed preschool curriculum, based on the United Kingdom’s EYFS and our years of experience with that system. Our approach is based on the individuality of every child. Children grow and develop at different rates. They do not all develop in the same way.
If you are interested in this topic and would like to find out more about the impact of high-quality preschool education, book some time in Director Magdalena’s calendar. She would love to explore it with you!