The Influence of Preschool Participation on Educational Outcomes in Kindergarten
Increasingly, young children in the U.S. are attending and participating in preschool programs. Parents as well as others perceive preschool educational opportunities as facilitating later positive educational outcomes for children. The research conducted within this study was focused on determining the degree to which preschool participation is associated with the attainment of successful educational outcomes for children during their kindergarten years. The study was conducted via the use of the heuristic research method in which six studies were examined for the purposes of determining the association between preschool and educational outcomes in kindergarten.
The Influence of Preschool Participation on Educational Outcomes in Kindergarten
During the last four decades, there has been increasing attention directed to the education of children who are under five (Barnett & Boocock, 1998). With ongoing changes in family structures and lifestyles, the number of children who are cared for by someone other than a parent has steadily increased. On the basis of information provided by Barnett and Boocock, estimates suggest that almost 65% of mothers with preschool children are in the labor force. In 1995, 59% of all preschool-aged children within the U.S. were in preschool care and education programs on a regular basis, including 67% of three-year-olds and 77% of four-year-olds (Hofferth, Shauman, Henke, & West, 1998). According to West, Denton, and Germino-Hausken (1998), results from a recent U.S. Department of Education (DOE) study found that 80% of all children beginning kindergarten in the fall of 1998 had been in child care on a regular basis, and about half continued to be in child care before or after school.
As such information suggests, currently, the vast majority of children within the U.S. spend much of their day away from their parents, with most attending a center-based preschool program prior to kindergarten. As reported by Yarosz and Barnett (2001), in 1999, center-based preschool programs are frequent attended by preschoolers throughout the U.S., with program participation at 70% at age four and 45% at age three. As described by Yarosz and Barnett, center-based programs represent those programs labeled most frequently as child care, preschool, day care, and nursery school and operating under a number of different auspices, including churches, independent non-profits, for-profits, public schools, and Head Start. According West, Hausken, and Collins (1993), regardless of how preschool programs are described and labeled, most parents perceive such programs as educational. As further explained by Yarosz and Barnett, as income and parental education increase, there is an increase in the rate of enrollment and participation of children in preschools. This finding has been found to hold true even thought there is greater government support for programs targeting children in low-income families. Additionally, as reported by Yarosz and Barnett, findings have suggested that parents are less likely to enroll children under three in center-based programs, as parent tend to view infant and toddler care as less likely to influence later educational outcomes.
As well, the implementation of preschool programs in public schools has recently increased. According to information provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2003), during the 2000-2001 school year, there were approximately 56,400 public elementary schools, 19,900 (35%) of which had prekindergarten classes Among the 19,900 public schools with prekindergarten classes during the 2000-2001school year, as reported by NCES the likelihood of elementary schools offering prekindergarten classes was found to increase with school sizes while schools located in urban areas were more likely than those in urban fringe/large town schools or rural/smalltown schools to have prekindergarten classes. Approximately 822,000 children were found to be enrolled in such prekindergarten classes offered within public schools.
As young children are increasingly enrolled and participating in various forms of non-parental education outside of the home, there has been a growing interest since the 1960s in determining the degree to which preschool programs influence children's learning, development and later educational outcomes. A particular concern raised by those interested in the influences of preschool participation focuses on the degree to which inequalities in early care and education may be responsible for much of the inequality in later educational outcomes within the U.S. (Entwisle, Alexander, & Olson, 2000). As also noted by Entwisle et al., concerns have also been raised regarding the degree to which parents may not be aware of the potential of their childcare/preschool decisions to either adversely or positively influence their child's development and later educational outcomes. Overall, a persistent question that has been raised in relation to preschool programs is whether such programs are beneficial to children in terms of later educational success beginning in kindergarten and throughout the remainder of their experiences in primary education programs.
On the basis of the ongoing questions that have emerged regarding the benefits of and potential association between preschool and later educational outcomes, this research report will attempt to address and clarify the influence of preschool on educational success in kindergarten. In addition, the research will attempt to identify factors that have been found to influence the degree to which preschool participation impacts successful educational outcomes in kindergarten. Factors under consideration are child characteristics, program characteristics and social/environmental characteristics.
The research methods selected for implementation within this study were based on the overall purpose of the study: to determine the degree to which young children's participation in preschool influences and is associated with positive educational outcomes in kindergarten. A brief overview of the research design utilized within the study as well as the research procedures employed will be provided.
The research design selected for utilization in the study is one that allows for both the qualitative and quantitative exploration and analysis of information. This research design is that which is known as historiography, which provides a systematic process of the study of prior historical research (Schumacher & McMillan, 1993). While there is no single or unique definable description of historiography, as described by Schumacher and McMillan, the steps involved in conducting historical research are essentially the same as those in other types of research. The first step implemented within historical research is that which involves the identification of a research problem, topic, or subject, followed by the formulation of significant questions to be addressed. Historical records are then used as secondary data sources to systematically collect, evaluate and synthesize the source materials for the purpose of addressing the research question(s) under investigation.
As explained by Schumacher and McMillan (1993), in order to objectively evaluate the data obtained, both internal and external criteria are applied to establish the validity, credibility, and usefulness of source materials. The application of external criteria helps establish validity while application of internal criteria helps establish meaning. As explained by Schumacher and McMillan, the final steps of historical research include analyzing and interpreting evidence from each source, synthesizing information from the various sources, making generalizations, formulating conclusions, and confirming or disconfirming hypotheses, if hypotheses testing is included within the research plan.
For the purposes of the study, it was decided that the external criteria guiding the examination of historical records would include the following:
Only research studies found in historical records, including journals, periodicals and reports from reliable organizations (e.g., DOE), conducted within the last 5 years would be included for analysis within the study.
Only research studies found in historical records, including journals, periodicals and reports from reliable organizations (e.g., DOE) that examined the impact of preschool on kindergarten outcomes would be included within the study.
Only 6 studies would be included for examination within the current study.
It was also determined that the internal criteria to be applied within the study would include the following:
When examining historical records selected for inclusion within the study, the researcher would maintain objectivity and report any negative outcomes as well as positive found within the research reviewed.
The researcher would adhere to the questionnaire developed for data collection purposes and would not include other information found within the studies selected for examination to insure that the focus of the study remained on target throughout the data collection and analysis process.
For the purposes of the study, a questionnaire was developed to guide the researcher in the examination of historical records selected for inclusion in the study. The questionnaire is presented below. While the questionnaire has not been subjected to pilot testing in order to determine its' validity and reliability, it was constructed using the current literature discussed earlier on children's participation in preschool programs within the U.S. Therefore, it is believed that the instrument retains face validity, as defined by Babbie (2001), in that it was designed to measure what it is suppose to measure - the association between participation in preschool and educational outcomes obtained in kindergarten
Influences of Preschool Participation:
Historical Records Questionnaire
What is the date of the study?
Does the study include information on preschool participation as it relates ot educational outcomes obtained in kindergarten?