programs, the training of teachers and child care professionals, and future research directions.

  • Draw out the major policy implications of the research findings.

The study was carried out at the request of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (Early Childhood Institute) and the Office of Special Education Programs, the Spencer Foundation, and the Foundation for Child Development. An important motivation for sponsors of the study is to help public discussion of these issues move away from ideology and toward evidence, so that educators, parents, and policy makers will be able to make better decisions about programs for the education and care of young children.

In accordance with the charge to the committee, this report focuses primarily on research and practice of relevance to programs for young children that take place outside the home, especially center-based programs. Yet it is important to underscore the point that children’s learning and development are strongly influenced by myriad family factors, including parental interaction styles and family aspirations and expectations for achievement. It is also important to note that many of the committee’s findings, especially those on children’s learning and development, are likely to apply to in-home settings and to parents who care for their own children, and they should also be of interest to family literacy and two-generation programs.


Current conceptions of early childhood development and pedagogy are built on a century of research and experience. Many of the theoretical perspectives that have held sway during that period have been incorporated in some form into early childhood practice. These include the “behaviorist” view of the role of positive reinforcement in behavior and learning, as well as the focus on children’s affective-social development—an influence of Freudian theory. A more recent (1970s) influence on preschool practice comes from Piagetian theory, which emphasizes stages

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