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Early Education Research Roundup

Better vocabulary skills at 24 months tied to greater math, reading and behavior skills in kindergarten 
Photo credit: EdSource
Research keeps uncovering how crucial the first months, let alone years, of a child's development are to later school success.

In a new paper published in the journal Child Development, Penn State researchers looked at a sample of 8,650 U.S. children and assessed their vocabularies at 24 months. The children were again assessed in kindergarten. Those with "more words," or higher levels of oral vocabulary, at age two had better math and language skills and also had fewer behavioral problems when they entered kindergarten.

According to the study, the researchers' intention was to test whether the strength of a child's early vocabulary skills could predict his or her behavior and academic skills in kindergarten, with the goal of identifying children in need of early intervention. Researchers also identified characteristics that are known to be associated with lower oral vocabulary, including being the child of a single parent, lower socioeconomic status, and low birth weight.

The study's authors point to the need for early intervention that focuses on increasing vocabulary in at-risk children in their earliest months: "Vocabulary gaps are evident even by this very early time period, and in turn consistently predict children's academic and behavioral functioning as they begin kindergarten."

The study abstract is available at this link.

A new study finds a link between childhood poverty and several key areas of brain development, and makes a case for efforts to improve the quality of daycare centers and provide more funding for childcare providers.

The study was conducted by several researchers from the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, and Duke University. Lead author Nicole L. Hair, a Robert Wood Johnson scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan told EdSource that "children's brains look similar when they are born. Clear differences begin to emerge once they are 3 or 4."

However, Hair stressed that the results of the study "don't imply that low-income children's ability is predetermined or a permanent disadvantage." 
"The brain continues to develop and continues to change structurally into our 20's," she said. "With intervention, it may be possible to alter this link between poverty and academic achievement."

EdSource Today reports
Photo credit: Liv Ames, EdSource
the full rollout of the Next Generation Science Standards is not likely to happen before 2019, educators across the state have been attending dozens of workshops this year on how to implement them.

That includes a group of elementary and preschool teachers who spent time observing slugs, pill bugs and spiders-- and learning how the new standards encourage a more student-directed approach to learning science.

California's effort to improve daycare quality meets traveling rural library
     Photo credit: ElDorado Library

California is moving to implement a "Quality Rating and Improvement System" for programs serving children from birth to 5 years old.

Much of the quality-rating system's success, however, rests on the willingness of county agencies and local care providers to participate in efforts to improve programs in their areas.

In El Dorado county's case, the library "came to us and asked, 'How can we help?,'" said Kathleen Guerrero, executive director of First 5 El Dorado, whose agency provided a $48,000 grant to fund a mobile literacy outreach project known as Early Literacy on the Move.

Click here to read more about this innovative program and to read an FAQ on the quality rating system.

Early Education News Briefs

A recent study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that early elementary school students are doing far more homework than recommended. "It was unsettling to find that in our study population, 1st and 2nd grade children had three times the homework load recommended," the study's author said. Even kindergarten students were being asked to do more than experts suggest.
Could early education become a top issue in the 2016 campaign season? Child welfare group Save the Children wants to make it happen. The group has launched a 501(c)(4) grassroots advocacy group called SCAN to help bring early education to the attention of candidates. Lead by Mark Shriver, nephew, to President John F. Kennedy, the organization is already running ads in early voting states.

Supported by research that points to academic benefits when strong numeracy skills are developed in the early years, programs in Seattle and Boston are putting more emphasis on preschool math.

Yet the need to learn through play hasn't been left out, and math games and puzzles are a key part. Educators hope the approach will help reduce the achievement gap.
Read the full story at Education Week.

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