Saturday, August 04, 2007

Study: Learning Aided by Pre-kindergarten Programs

New Mexico's pre-kindergarten program has helped children improve their early learning in language, math and the development of literacy skills, according to a study of the first year of the educational initiative.

Gov. Bill Richardson released the study on Thursday and urged next year's Legislature to continue expanding the program to make preschool services available to all 4-year-olds in New Mexico.

The state started the pre-kindergarten program in the 2005-2006 school year with $5 million and it covered about 1,500 students. About 2,200 children were served in the most recent school year, 2006-2007.

"Our findings are promising, and indicate that New Mexico's state-funded pre-kindergarten initiative is producing the kinds of initial effects likely to lead to increased school success and continued advantages in reading and math skills," the study concluded.

"Meaningful effects were found on children's receptive vocabulary, math, and print awareness skills, with the largest effects apparent on children's early print awareness skills. Children's early print awareness and receptive vocabulary skills have been found to predict later reading abilities in the early elementary grades."

The study was conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University and sampled more than 800 children. Kindergartners who had completed pre-K the previous year were assessed in the fall of 2006 along with children who were then enrolled in pre-K.

The study found that "participation in the New Mexico pre-K initiative has statistically significant effects on children's learning that are evident when they begin kindergarten." It also said "the estimated effects in New Mexico are comparable in size to those of other well-regarded preschool initiatives," such as one in Oklahoma.

However, the study cautioned that its findings in New Mexico were preliminary because data on the children was from the "early stages" of the program. Studies of additional school years are planned.

Researchers assessed the vocabulary ability of children as well as math skills, including "basic number ideas, simple addition and subtraction, telling time and counting money."

The study estimated that children in pre-K more than doubled their growth in the "understanding of print ideas." ...

This from Education Week (subscription).

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