Research shows the benefits of early childhood education on math, reading
- A new study released by the American Institutes for Research found children who attended center-based care in the year before kindergarten performed better than their peers who did not as they entered kindergarten in 2010.
- In announcing the study, AIR said slightly more students attended center-based care in 2012 than in 1995 (58% versus 55%), but fewer Latinos (48%) and Pacific Islanders (28%) did the same, and children from homes that speak a language other than English were less likely to have regular early care and education arrangements.
- Children who had regular early care — including daycare centers, preschool and nonrelative home care — had better learning approaches, more cognitive flexibility and better math scores than those who did not. In reading, children who primarily had home-based care of any kind scored lower.
The AIR research re-emphasizes the importance of structured early childhood education. The Obama administration’s Education Department has pushed for an expansion of high-quality early childhood programs and many cities and states have allocated more money toward these efforts in recent years. The study is interesting in showing benefits for children in homecare arrangements that are not with their own families when it comes to math and other measures of children’s ability to learn, even short of a structured learning environment, but homecare of any sort puts children behind in reading.
For schools rushing to catch students up in kindergarten, it is important to remember too much structure and desk-learning could have negative effects on long-term outcomes. Play-based kindergarten programs that incorporate math and literacy lessons in hands-on, engaging, center-based ways, tend to better prepare students more holistically and get them back up to speed with their peers by later grades.
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