gain the specialized knowledge they need to tailor their teaching when they work with relatively few children for a long period of time and when they have a chance to reflect on their teaching practices. Such teachers are more able to understand the children’s individual interests, and they can create activities and interactions to meet them.
Children who do well in school tend to have parents who have close relationships with teachers and caregivers, reinforcing the traditional belief in the importance of such partnerships. The teacher who has extensive contact with the child’s family can better understand the child as an individual and have an appreciation for the contexts in which the child functions, the parents’ aims and hopes for the child, and the values of the child’s culture. When parents and teachers are teamed in such a collaboration, the adults can do the work to build consistency in the world of the child, rather than leaving it up to the child to integrate disparate contexts.
Program quality has been found to be associated with children’s developmental outcome. The prevalence of quality factors—teacher-child ratio and class size, program intensity and coherence, responses to parents, staff qualifications, teachers as reflective practitioners, and teacher preparation—in the experimental preschools contrasts with their absence in many of today’s typical community programs for low-income children. We cannot identify the ideal levels of each quality factor based on current research, particularly as these will vary with the characteristics of the children and goals of the programs. However, it can be safely concluded that most early education and care programs in the United States do not approach ideal levels of quality and that programs designed to reduce the gap between rich and poor in early childhood educational opportunity are far from optimal. If early intervention is to live up to the promise of the longitudinal results, then Head Start, Title I, child care, and other programs should approximate the standard of quality suggested by the research reviewed here.