Little kids are happier at home with their families -- only Leftists would be surprised. An excerpt about some recent Califonia research:
As taxpayers, parents and educators debate the value of public preschool for every child, a new study by UC Berkeley and Stanford researchers finds for the first time that middle-class children -- not just kids from the poorest families -- receive a boost in language and math skills from preschool. But its darker findings bolster earlier, more controversial conclusions that preschool can hinder social development.
The study, "How much is too much? The Influence of Preschool Centers on Children's Development Nationwide," was released today and comes as Hollywood movie director Rob Reiner leads a group of universal preschool advocates pushing for a June 2006 ballot measure that would tax the wealthiest Californians to fund preschool for all who want it. The study, with its good and bad news, is likely to fuel arguments on both sides of the preschool debate. Universal preschool advocates can seize on the findings that preschool benefits most children in language and math. Those who think scarce preschool resources should continue to go to the poorest children can point to the negative effects on social development, especially for children from the wealthiest families. The study looked not only at aggressive behaviors but also at a child's ability to cooperate and negotiate tasks in a classroom.
"If preschool is expanded, more isn't necessarily better," said UC Berkeley child development research director Margaret Bridges, an author of the study who expressed concern about the negative effects on social development. "Cognitive benefits are great, but we have to pay heed to what's going on with kids emotionally and socially." ....
The researchers found evidence supporting past studies that preschool has the greatest cognitive impact on the poorest children -- those whose families make $16,000 or less. Those children exhibited language and math skills that on average were 8 and 9 percentage points higher, respectively, than their stay-at-home peers. This sort of finding isn't new and has fueled support for the federal Head Start program for poor children. Children from lower-income families -- an economic notch above poor families -- didn't see a statistically significant improvement in language but performed an average of 6 percentage points better in math than peers who didn't attend preschool.
What struck researchers was this: Middle-income children did 5 percentage points better in both language and math than those in that income bracket who stayed at home. And children from the highest income quartile -- those whose families made $66,000 or more -- also saw improvements, although small ones: They performed 3 percentage points above average in language. Their gains in math weren't statistically significant.
These findings -- while positive overall -- don't convince Fuller that universal preschool is the way to use scarce resources. If preschool gives everyone a leg up in either language or math, then a universal program wouldn't close the achievement gap between children from low-income and higher-income families, Fuller argues. "Middle-class families are benefiting, but if we move toward universal preschool, it's not clear that universal preschool would close gaps in early learning because the gain experienced by low-income kids may not ever be enough to catch up with the gain by middle-class kids," Fuller said. ...
The UC Berkeley-Stanford study found that all children who attended preschool at least 15 hours a week displayed more negative social behaviors such as trouble cooperating or acting up, when compared with their peers. The discrepancies were most pronounced among children from higher-income families. Children from lower-income families lagged behind their peers who didn't attend preschool an average of 7 percentage points on the measure of social behavioral growth. But children from higher-income families lagged 9 percentage points behind their peers. These wealthier children did even worse when they attended preschool for 30 hours or more: They trailed their peers by 15 percentage points.
It's not clear why children from higher-income families exhibit more negative behaviors than their stay-at-home peers. Fuller speculated their peers might be in enriching home environments that include things like trips to the library as well as dance and music lessons. Other studies have found childcare centers negatively affect children's social development, said Jay Belsky, director of the Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues at Birkbeck University of London, in an e-mail interview. "It is time to come to grips with what all too many have denied for all too long, namely, that all disconcerting news about adverse effects cannot be attributed to low-quality care, which has been more or less the mantra of the field of child development and the child-care advocacy community for decades," Belsky said.....
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