U.Va. Researcher Part of Study That
Finds First-Grade Classes May Not Meet Children's Needs
20, 2001-- Researchers studying the effects of early
child care on school readiness for the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development can find no agreement on what constitutes
an appropriate first-grade instructional program or educational
experience. They add that students' experiences in first-grade classrooms
vary so much that many programs may not address their wide-ranging
Pianta, the William Clay Parrish professor in the University of
Virginia's Curry School
of Education, is among 30 researchers nationwide conducting
this 10-year study. He is the project's lead researcher at U.Va.
study took an unparalleled look at school readiness from both sides
of school entry," Pianta said. "We examined the antecedent conditions
of readiness before children go to school. We then made comprehensive
observations of the classroom's role in that readiness."
findings and other related research will be presented today and
Friday at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child
Development in Minneapolis. The research has not been through the
peer-review process nor has it been published.
researchers enrolled 1,300 children at birth in 10 cities 10 years
ago throughout the United States. In Charlottesville and the other
areas, parents and their newborns were recruited for the project
while they were still in the hospital. Researchers studied them
in several child-care arrangements, ranging from the most informal
(with relatives) to the most formal (center care). The researchers
have followed the children through their infant, toddler, and preschool
years and now into elementary school.
researchers observed 827 children in public and private first-grade
classrooms for about three hours at the start of each school day.
The researchers determined that for the first-grade program study:
in different classrooms are exposed to a very wide range of
experiences and activities. Many involve a teacher leading a
large group in a literacy-related activity. Across almost two
hours, teachers mostly managed the classroom, including
the children's involvement in academic work. During the same
time, teachers were minimally involved in directly teaching
are more engaged in an assigned activity and more positive when
classrooms are rated as "more supportive" instructionally and
teacher's experience and formal education, as well as class
size, do not relate meaningfully to the observed quality of
the classroom environment. The researchers did find small links
between a teacher's education and total years teaching first
grade and the teacher's sensitivity to children's needs and
providing appropriate academic instruction.
on these findings, it appears that educators do not agree on what
makes up the proper first-grade instructional program or educational
experience. The researchers concluded that first-grade experiences
vary so much that, taken as a whole, these findings suggest that
classrooms may not be meeting children's needs.
related research, the positive effects of quality child care as
they relate to intellectual and language development and on the
development of preschool skills were apparent not only in a child's
first three years, but also by the time children reach 4-1/2. In
general, the relation between the quality of child care and cognitive
and language skills was small to moderate.
found children receiving more language stimulation from their caregivers
made higher scores on intellectual and language tests than did those
with less language stimulation in child care. They also reported
that children who watch more television received lower test scores
in arithmetic and had smaller vocabularies and more behavior problems.
these findings pertaining to quality of care demonstrate that caregiver
behavior -- particularly language stimulation -- are associated
with children's later intellectual development and school readiness.
Researchers found a link between the aspects of quality care that
can be regulated -- such as adult-child ratio and provider training
-- and children's intellectual development.
the study found that children 4-1/2 and older, who spent more time
in child care when younger, were rated by caregivers, their mothers
and kindergarten teachers as having more behavior problems than
did those the same age who spent less time in child care. Researchers
found the children were rated as more aggressive toward other children
and more disobedient and defiant.
February 2000, the University of Virginia received a $2.5 million
grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
to continue this childhood development research for another five
years. This will take the children into their early teen years.
NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health, the biomedical
research arm of the federal government. The Institute sponsors research
on development before and after birth; maternal, child and family
health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical
rehabilitation. More information about NICHD is available at www.nichd.nih.gov.
Ann Overton, (804) 924-1325