Second, the data show that the TOP children, from kindergarten through 4th grades, are able to interact significantly more competently with their peers and adults than other children their age. Peer relationships in childhood. Lamb Eds. By early adolescence, students need relationships with others to continue to develop their sense of self, their self-esteem, their sense of belonging, and their sense of well-being. The third dimension of social skills where the TOP students measured significantly higher was that of emotionally maturity: Emotional maturity implies that children have the ability to know when to control their anger, learn to take turns, and learn to share.
It is the beginning of the ability to take the perspective of the other person. It helps nurture self-initiative, self-confidence, and autonomy Eisenberg et al. Cognitive Development , 22 4 , — It seems likely that the students who drop from the study TOP and non-TOP will be those with the negative attitudes toward school and the superior attendance of the TOP children will continue. Attendance indicated a significant predictive value, suggesting that TOP students will continue to be higher in their attendance than the control group. Discipline is another attitude variable: Juvenile adjudication and high school dropouts generally result from discipline problems at younger ages Schweinhart et al.
Although the data for TOP children experiencing fewer repeat disciplinary referrals is not strong, a trend remains in the direction of fewer repeat discipline referrals for the TOP students. It may be that the social skills including appropriate behavior, competent interactions, and emotional maturity that the TOP students learned in preschool will serve them well as they negotiate the transition to middle school.
Implications from a high-quality, early learning settings are broad, including academic benefits, social skills, and positive attitudes. The evidence from the first cohort of this longitudinal study provides additional evidence for the benefits of early interventions. Kansas begins administering state standardized tests in math and reading to students in the 3rd grade to evaluate public school performance. TOP students in 3rd grade scored higher on reading assessments performance indicators and scored similarly to the control group on math performance indicators.
In the 4th grade, TOP students were much less likely to score below Meets Standards and much more likely to score as Exceeds Standards in reading and math. This is counter to past studies Isaacs, Isaacs, J. Teaching parents to teach their children to be prosocial. Intervention in School and Clinic , 36 1 , 27 — Treating children with early-onset conduct problems: Intervention outcomes for parent, child, and teacher training. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology , 33 1 , — TOP children have shown ability to behave appropriately, establish social relationships, engage in social interactions, and provide evidence of emotional maturity.
When comparing TOP students with other children in their classes, they behave significantly better than their peers, they have significantly more competent social interactions, and they are more emotionally mature than their peers from 1st through the 4th grades. Not only does this evidence begin at kindergarten, it grows, develops, and matures. In terms of attendance, TOP children improved in their attendance rates and had significantly fewer absences each year than their non-TOP peers. Repeat disciplinary referrals increased each year for the TOP group and the control group.
However, the repeat referrals for the TOP children were sufficiently lower than for the control group. Again, this reflects the notion that TOP children increased in their positive attitude toward school compared to their control group peers.
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As with any study, there are limitations to our research. Because we cannot determine who enrolls in preschool and who is left out, the controlled experimental design is not possible. When we use actual events and occurrences, there are shortcomings that result. The natural world is not set up as a research platform; thus, we need to work with the data that result from real-world experiences.
There may be many limitations; however, the following seem to be relevant. First, there were no data across the two school systems on which to compare children for the academics.
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The first common assessments were the state standardized tests in reading and mathematics that are not administered until students reach the 3rd grade. Second, we could not procure a control group for the social skills section. Teachers might have been subjective in completing the questionnaires and, with no group with which to compare the TOP students, that might weaken the findings.
This would have enhanced the findings in determining if length of time in the TOP program increased the differences between TOP and control group students. However, with the limitations that were present, there remains beginning evidence of long-term effects from a quality preschool program over the elementary school years.
It may be profitable to follow just one school system in the future to provide academic data from kindergarten on. Each school system has a program in which they collect academic data for all elementary children annually. However, the two systems were not compatible for comparison; thus, we decided to provide the first cross-system data that were common between the two school systems. Second, establishing a control group on which to compare social skills would strengthen our position that TOP children excel more than their same-age peers on these variables. Although we have data establishing their skills compared to their classmates, the data may be skewed.
The TOP program that stresses social and academic skills for young children appears to have long-lasting benefits. Academic performance increased for children provided with high-quality, early learning. There were fewer placements in special education, which provided evidence that the TOP emphasis on early identification and remediation of learning problems has merit. Additionally, the differences in math and reading on the state standardized indicators provided evidence that early intervention has long-term benefits for brain development when its architecture is most pliable.
The growing evidence from the data for social skills lends strength to the notion that early education has long-term benefits for children.
Whereas kindergarten students benefited from the social and academic skills they learned at the TOP Early Learning Centers, these skills expanded as the children grew and developed—TOP children became increasingly adept in their social skills, such that by the time they approached 5th grade and were ending their elementary school years, they were demonstrating increasingly sophisticated social skills: displaying appropriate behaviors, establishing relationships, interacting socially, and responding to stimuli in an emotionally mature manner.
In addition, they were becoming more responsible for their behavior as evidenced by their attendance at school, which increased as they aged. Table 1. After that year, we started to see attrition. Table 2. Table 3. Table 4. Skip to Main Content. Search in: This Journal Anywhere. Advanced search. Submit an article Journal homepage. View further author information. Pages Received 21 Apr Original Articles. ABSTRACT This study was designed to substantiate the positive, long-term outcomes demonstrated by children from economically disadvantaged homes who received a high-quality, early education.
Questions for study Based on the literature, a longitudinal study in which children from a quality preschool program can be followed throughout their school years to determine long-term effects from such a program is a timely study. Method The program delivered by TOP Early Learning Centers is based on what is known about the following three components: child development and learning, each child, and the social and cultural context of the individual child. The longitudinal study The TOP Longitudinal Study began in the fall of ; the first TOP graduates were already in kindergarten when the researchers began to develop the strategies for the program of study.
Participants To be eligible study participants, the children must have attended TOP for at least eight continuous months the year prior to entering kindergarten.
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Published online: 03 February CSV Display Table. Instrument Based on past research that indicates a major long-term impact from early education on the social skills of children, the researchers developed a social questionnaire that was administered to the teachers of former TOP students identified for the study.
Academic measures Beginning in the 3rd grade, the school systems assess each student on state normed reading and mathematics tests. Attitudes toward school Earlier longitudinal studies e. Data collection The study was discussed with parents when a child enrolled at a TOP center, and parents were asked to sign a consent form requesting their child be tracked in a longitudinal study.
Results The results section is divided into three areas for analyses: 1 academics, 2 social skills, and 3 attitudes toward school. Academics Academics are presented as reading and math performance indicators from state assessments beginning at the 3rd grade. Standardized test outcomes Because reading and mathematics are the basic tools that children need in school from an early time and use throughout their lives, these were the two academic tests researchers chose to measure.
Display full size. Special education placement Because the two sample sizes are so different, the best means of demonstrating the data may be by illustrating a figure of the placement in special education by percentages of the TOP students and the control groups for each year from kindergarten through the 4th grade. Social skills The second analysis addresses social skills; these skills were measured on three dimensions: appropriate behaviors, competent social interactions, and emotional maturity.
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Attitudes toward school The final area that the research addressed in terms of how preschool has helped prepare children for school was the following: attendance and discipline. Attendance Attendance was measured by the average number of days absent during the school year. Discipline referrals We also asked the school systems to provide us information about discipline, specifically if a child was referred to the office because of behavior problems and if there were repeated discipline referrals for the same child.
Regression analyses To determine if the differences between the TOP students and the control group have any predictive value, regression analyses were conducted on the academic and attitude variables.
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Discussion Past research indicates that 4-year-olds benefit from being in a high-quality, early learning setting and that it has a lasting effect. Special education Much of the past research indicates that there is lower placement in special education for children who attend quality preschool programs, especially as children reached older ages in school Barnett, Barnett, W.
Social skills The social skills that will be with students their entire lives seem to be well entrenched as they navigate their way through the school day. Attitudes toward school Schweinhart and colleagues Schweinhart, L.