U.S. Preschools Not Reaching Potential

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Oct. 23 (UPI) — U.S. preschool varies widely from state to state and within states and, as a result, narrows the achievement gap much less than it could, researchers say.

Robert C. Pianta of the University of Virginia, W. Steven Barnett of Rutgers University in New Jersey, Margaret Burchinal of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Kathy R. Thornburg of the University of Missouri reviewed publicly funded preschool, which include child-care centers, Head Start and state-funded pre-kindergarten.

The study, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, found there is such a wide variety of basic aims, funding, program models and staff qualifications, it seems as if no two preschool programs are alike.

For example, one 3-year-old child enrolled in a publicly funded preschool could attend for 8 hours a day and be taught by a teacher with a bachelor’s degree, while another 3-year-old may go for a few hours a day and have a teacher with a two-year degree.

Numerous studies show preschool can result in less grade repetition, higher rates of high-school graduation and improved social behavior. However, the prevalence low-quality U.S. preschool programs closes the achievement gap by perhaps 5 percent rather than the 30 percent to 50 percent possible if all preschool programs were of higher quality, the researchers concluded.

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