Tag Archive for 'preschool'

Science and preschool policy

In “How to Get More Early Bloomers” (New York Times, 30 January 2014), Dan Willingham and David Grissmer argue that policymakers should be more cautious about the benefits of universal preschool and should employ the tools of science to examine policies so that quality can be built into the preschools that states and localities offer.

When New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, went to Albany earlier this week to talk about his program for universal preschool, the discussion reportedly focused on funding, not on whether or how preschool would actually help children. President Obama seemed equally confident when he introduced his plan for universal preschool last year, flatly stating, “We know this works.” But the state of research is actually much murkier. And unless policy makers begin to design preschool programs in ways that can be evaluated later, the situation won’t get any clearer.

You can read the entire editorial on-line. Observant readers might say the authors could have cited some other historical examples of effective preschools (e.g., Bereiter & Engelmann, 1966), but that doesn’t negate their general thrust that policy on preschools should be guided by science.


Bereiter, C., & Engelmann, S. (1966). Teaching disadvantaged children in the preschool. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Is my teaching effective?

How does one know whether one’s teaching is working? That’s a dang important question. Over on myIGDIs, Scott McConnell provides a quick and clear introduction to the answer. In How Do I Know if My Classroom Practices Are Working?, Professor McConnell explains that one needs (a) goals or standards, (b) points of comparison against which to assess change or difference, and (c) trustworthy ways of measuring students’ performance, if one is to assess the effects of one’s teaching.

Although Professor McConnell’s analysis is aimed primarily at early childhood education, it’s base is general enough to be applicable across age groups. He’s talking about Individual Growth and Development Indicators, or IGDIs. Those are important tools in an effective educator’s apron. I’m thinking myIGDIs, which provides research-based, preschool language and literacy measures, looks like a valuable site. These link nicely to RtI, CBM, and other models that align with monitoring progress systematically.

Free gift from Education Consumers Foundation!

partial image of cover of Clear Teaching

Isn’t it unusual to get something for free that is actually worth a lot? The good folks over at Education Consumers Foundation (ECF) are giving away a small book that is quite valuable, and I encourage readers to download it, read it, and tell their friends to get it, too.

What are they giving away? It’s a book called Clear Teaching: With Direct Instruction, Siegfried Engelmann Discovered a Better Way of Teaching by Shep Barbash. As one can tell from the subtitle, it’s about Zig Engelmann’s work on education. I talked with Mr. Barbash as he worked on the manuscript for the book, read an earlier version of it, and am very impressed with this finished product. It’s even more impressive that the book is now out in the wild for free. Kudos to Mr. Barbash, John Stone, and all the others at ECF who made this happen.

Clear Teaching – The Book
Written by veteran journalist Shepard Barbash over a period of 10 years, Clear Teaching is a well-researched, highly readable introduction to Direct Instruction (DI), a systematic teaching approach which for more than 40 years has dramatically improved learning outcomes for students of all abilities and from all walks of life. The book looks at the development of DI through the early experiences of its creator, Zig Engelmann; explains the principles that underpin this approach; and looks at DI’s reception in the world of teaching, where it has been effectively shunned despite a formidable research base and example after example of transformative success.

The image at the top of the post is hot, but readers can also click here to go to the ECF page where they can download the PDF.

Funnix is free for a few more days

Until 31 January 2011, one can download a copy of Funnix a tutorial program for teaching beginning reading skills just for the asking. Yes, you have to submit a name and an e-mail address, that’s the catch.

Funnix, authored by Siegfied Engelmann, Owen Engelmann, and Karen Davis, is composed of 120 30-minute lessons delivered via compact disk on a computer. An adult coaches the child as she learns fundamentals of decoding (e.g., letter-sound correspondences, blending), practices reading words (lists, sentences, and passages), and develops basic comprehension skills (e.g., literal connections). Children answer some questions verbally, click answers to others directly on the computer, and write responses to others in workbooks. The adult monitors and provides feedback. (The package includes materials guiding the adult’s support.)
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Evidence-based education in Head Start?

Isabel Sawhill and Jon Baron published an editorial in Education Week calling for a new approach to the venerable Head Start program, one founded on evidence about effectiveness. They argue that in the wake of the discouraging Head Start Impact Study reported by US Department of Health & Human Services, it’s time to bring research into the nation’s play pre-schools.

A new approach is needed. One that has been suggested—defunding these programs—would amount to giving up the fight against major social problems such as educational failure and poverty that damage millions of American lives. A far better alternative is to use rigorous evidence about “what works” to evolve Head Start and other federal efforts into truly effective programs over time, and to use sophisticated models to trace their longer-term effects on children’s life prospects.

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PreK pays

According to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), a study examining the benefits of providing pre-kindergarten programs in New Mexico (US) revealed that there were significant and important benefits for children. Jason Hustedt and colleagues found that there were significant improvements in children’s language, literacy, and math competence associated with attending pre-k programs.

[Their] results show that New Mexico PreK produces consistent benefits for children who
participated in PreK, compared to those who did not, across all three years of the study. Positive impacts of PreK were found in each of three content areas important to early academic success – language, literacy, and math. Findings in literacy and mathematics were statistically significant in analyses for each school year of New Mexico PreK. Findings specific to our measure of early language were statistically significant for the first two years of the study, and using a combined, multi‐year data set.

I had to wonder what curriculum the New Mexico pre-k programs followed. It appears that about half of the sites do not report the curriculum they use. However, one uses Bank Street, nine use High Scope, and the remaining 60-some use Creative Curriculum. Imagine what kind of effects these pre-k programs could achieve if they used more effective curricula!

Hustedt, J. T., Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., & Goetze, L. D. (2009). The New Mexico preK evaluation: Results from the initial four years of a new state preschool initiative. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.

The report is available for free. See the Website for the New Mexico PreK program.

Engelmann explains

Zig Engelmann, progenitor of Direct Instruction (DI), has posted a video of a talk he gave earlier this month. The presentation is an explication of the underlying principles of DI, “Theory of Direct Instruction.”

In the presentation (video below the jump), Mr. Engelmann shows some of his chops from his undergraduate degree in philosophy. He starts with philosophers’ fundamental arguments and shows how those correspond (or don’t) with learning and teaching concepts. For example, as he works through John Stuart Mills’ five methods of induction from A System of Logic, he makes clear how each would apply to teaching. I suspect that this particular sequence will show many people why DI instruction (the examples used in the scripts, not the teaching behavior) is structured the way it is.
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English intervention improves Spanish-speakers’ early literacy outcomes

In Child Development Jo Ann Farver and colleagues reported that young children who speak Spanish can learn English early literacy skills better when they receive instruction in English. That finding’s not particularly surprising, but there’s more: There’s a comparison of English-only and “transitional” methods. Children who received instruction in English-only or Spanish with transition to English (both using the Literacy Express Preschool Curriculum) had higher pre-literacy outcomes than peers who had been randomly assigned to receive the High/Scope Curriculum.
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