Excellence Makes the Difference

How much of an impact can preschool make in a child’s life?

An excellent preschool program can give children long-term benefits that follow them into adulthood. That’s what one study found when researchers tracked children from early childhood through high school and beyond. In this important study, data revealed that children in an excellent part-day preschool program had less need for special education, less grade retention, and significantly higher high school graduation rates than children who did not attend a good preschool.

What accounted for this particular program’s success? Some of the essential features included:

A well-supplied, well-designed preschool space. The room was divided into various interest areas (e.g., water play, drawing and painting, music, pretend play, reading, and writing).

A regular daily routine. By providing regular expectations and schedules for classroom routines such as planning time, work time, clean-up time, small-group time, outside time, and circle time, children learn to conduct themselves in each activity and when and how to transition between them.

Strong parent-teacher communication: Teachers had regular communication with parents, including home visits.

Strong teaching methods and teamwork among teachers. Teachers gave children a comfortable, secure environment that promoted active learning. They encouraged and supported children’s actions and language. They helped children make choices and decisions and helped them solve their own problems and do things for themselves. Each day, teachers recorded and shared with other teachers notes on each child’s activities and progress.

A varied curriculum. The curriculum promoted children’s learning in many domains, such as creative representations (pretend play, model-making, drawing, and painting); language and literacy; initiative-taking

and social relations; movement; music; classification and seriation (arranging objects in order or patterns—such as color and size—and describing their relationship, such as biggest to smallest); numbers (counting and relationships—such as more, fewer, the same); space (experiencing and describing position, direction, and distances in the classroom, the building, and neighborhood); and time (concept of time and sequence of events).

Language experiences. Adults regularly engaged children in conversation, soliciting their responses and focusing on their strengths. They talked with children about personally meaningful experiences, describing objects and events.

Literacy experiences. Adults encouraged writing experiences (such as drawing, scribbling, and invented spelling), and reading (such as reading storybooks, signs, symbols, and one’s own writing).

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