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Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers (2000)

Chapter: Front Matter

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

Eager to learn

Educating Our Preschoolers

Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy

Barbara T.Bowman, M.Suzanne Donovan, and M.Susan Burns, Editors

Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, DC

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

The study was supported by Grant No. R307U970002 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education, the Spencer Foundation, and the Foundation for Child Development. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy.

Eager to learn: educating our preschoolers/Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council; Barbara T.Bowman, M.Suzanne Donovan, and M.Susan Burns, editors.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-309-06836-3

1. Education, Preschool—United States. 2. Learning—Social aspects—United States. I. Bowman, Barbara T. II. Donovan, Suzanne. III. Burns, M.Susan (Marie Susan) IV. Title.

LB1140.23 .N38 2000

372.21′0973–dc21

00–011192

Additional copies of this report are available from
National Academy Press,
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, D.C. 20055; (800) 624–6242 or (202) 334–3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu

Printed in the United States of America

Copyright 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Suggested citation: National Research Council (2001) Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy. Barbara T. Bowman, M.Suzanne Donovan, and M.Susan Burns, editors. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

National Academy of Sciences

National Academy of Engineering

Institute of Medicine

National Research Council

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M.Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A.Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I.Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M.Alberts and Dr. William A.Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

COMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD PEDAGOGY

BARBARA T.BOWMAN (Chair),

Erikson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development, Chicago

W.STEVEN BARNETT,

Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University

LINDA M.ESPINOSA,

College of Education, University of Missouri, Columbia

ROCHEL GELMAN,

Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

HERBERT P.GINSBURG,

Teachers College, Columbia University

EDMUND W.GORDON, Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology,

City University of New York

BETTY M.HART,

Institute for Life Span Studies, University of Kansas, Lawrence

CAROLLEE HOWES,

Graduate School of Education, University of California, Los Angeles

SHARON LYNN KAGAN,

Teachers College, Columbia University, and Yale University

LILIAN G.KATZ, ERIC

Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

ROBERT A.LeVINE,

Harvard Graduate School of Education

SAMUEL J.MEISELS,

School of Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

LYNN OKAGAKI,

Department of Child Development and Family Studies, Purdue University

MICHAEL I.POSNER,

Sackler Institute, Weill Medical College of Cornell, New York

IRVING E.SIGEL,

Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey

BARBARA H.WASIK,

School of Education, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

GROVER J.WHITEHURST,

Department of Psychology, State University of New York, Stony Brook

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

ALEXANDRA K.WIGDOR, Deputy Director,

Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

M.SUSAN BURNS, Study Director

M.SUZANNE DONOVAN, Senior Project Officer

MARIE SUIZZO, Research Associate

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

Preface

THE LAST HALF OF THE 20TH CENTURY witnessed an outpouring of research on cognition and learning, child development, and the social and cultural context of learning. One clear message to emerge from this explosion of knowledge is the prodigious enthusiasm and competence for learning shown by young children. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers is the most recent publication from a series of National Research Council (NRC) studies sponsored by the Department of Education for the purpose of making scientific research accessible and salient to educators, policy makers, and parents. (Others include Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children [1998]; Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success [1999]; How People Learn: Mind, Brain, Experience, School—Expanded Edition [2000].) It represents the first attempt at a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary synthesis of the theory, research, and evaluation literature relevant to early childhood education.

Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers is the product of a 3-year study during which 17 experts, appointed by the NRC as members of the Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy, reviewed studies from many fields in the behavioral and social sciences that used many different research methods, both quantitative and qualitative, and both observational and experimental. We restricted our attention to those aspects of the research litera-

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
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ture that have clear implications for what and how young children are taught. (A second National Research Council/Institute of Medicine study, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Child Development [2000], looks more generally at the health and well-being of young children.) Nevertheless, the attempt to develop an integrated picture of early learning and how the education of young children outside the home should proceed has been an enormous task. Fortunately, we were able to call on the expertise and assistance of many other people in the course of our work.

This project has been supported with patience and generosity by the Office of Education Research and Improvement (OERI) of the U.S. Department of Education. In particular, we thank Kent McGuire, assistant secretary for OERI; Naomi Karp, director of the Early Childhood Institute, whose passion to improve the life chances of all young children inspired the study; Gail Houle, of the Office of Special Education Programs; and Carol Rasco, director, America Reads Challenge, who made possible the presentation of the conclusions and recommendations of Eager to Learn to 600 state education and human services officials who participated in Secretary Riley’s Early Childhood Summit.

We also thank the Spencer Foundation, for its support of the project and for making it possible to hold a workshop on global perspectives on early childhood education, and the Early Childhood Foundation, for its support.

Individually and collectively, members of the committee had discussions with experts on many of the issues and topics in learning, development, and early care and education. We offer a special note of thanks to Mark Wolery, Vanderbilt University, who was helpful in sharpening the discussion of educating children with disabilities even as he juggled moving vans and house closings. John Bransford, chair of the NRC Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning, generously shared the insights of that committee and Lucia French, University of Rochester, provided valuable assistance with the description of mathematics and science programs for preschool children.

We also commissioned work on a number of topics of special interest as the study progressed. Our particular thanks go to Ellen Frede, The College of New Jersey, for her background paper on

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

model programs and the evaluation data supporting them; to Carol Ripple, Yale University, who developed an information base on early childhood state standards; and to Douglas H.Clements, State University of New York, Buffalo, who prepared a background paper on the practical use of technology in early childhood programs.

To broaden its understanding of early childhood care and education, the committee commissioned a number of papers which were presented at a workshop entitled, “Global Perspectives on Early Childhood Education,” held at the National Academy of Sciences on April 6–7, 1999. Our special thanks go to Jerome Bruner, whose keynote address conveyed the wisdom of a lifetime’s work on the learning of young children; Shiela B. Kamerman, “Early Childhood Education and Care: Preschool Policies and Programs in the OECD Countries;” Rebecca S.New, “Italian Early Childhood Education: Variations on a Cultural Theme;” Cigdem Kagitcibasi, “Early Learning and Human Development: The Turkish Early Enrichment Program;” Susan D. Holloway, “Beyond the ‘Average Native’: Cultural Models of Early Childhood Education in Japan.” Our thanks as well to discussant Robert G.Myers.

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Sue Bredekamp, Council for Professional Recognition in Early Childhood, Washington, DC; Roy G.D’Andrade, Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego; Rheta DeVries, Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education, University of Northern Iowa; Jacqueline Jones, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey; Susan Kontos, Department of Child Development and Fam-

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

ily Studies, Purdue University; Eleanor Maccoby, Department of Psychology, Stanford University (emeritus); Rebecca New, Department of Education, University of New Hampshire; Lawrence J.Schweinhart, High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, Ypsilanti, Michigan; Catherine Snow, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University; and Bernard Spodek, College of Education, University of Illinois.

Although the individuals listed above have provided constructive comments and suggestions, it must be emphasized that responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

Finally, there are several members of the NRC staff who made significant contributions to our work. Susan Burns, now a faculty member at George Mason University, served as study director during much of the life of the committee. Marie Suizzo, as research associate, was instrumental in organizing the workshop on global perspectives. Christine McShane, editor, worked with us on several drafts of the report and significantly improved the text. Shirley Thatcher and Carey Munteen spent many weeks tracking down errant references and otherwise filling in the blanks. A special thanks to Suzanne Donovan, a senior member of the research staff, who took time from her other duties to help with the final revisions to the manuscript.

Barbara Bowman, Chair

Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy

Alexandra K.Wigdor, Deputy Director

Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×
Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

Tables, Boxes, and Figures

TABLES

1–1

 

Early Childhood Education and Care Policy Dimensions in Selected OECD Countries,

 

26

3–1

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by Print Familiarity Scores, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

66

3–2

 

Percentage of First-Time Kindergartners Passing Each Reading Proficiency Level, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

68

3–3

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by Numbers of Books and Children’s Records, Audiotapes, or CDs in the Home, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

70

3–4

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by the Number of Times Each Week Family Members Read Books and Tell Stories to Them, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

74

3–5

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by the Number of Times Each Week Family Members Sing Songs and Do Arts and Crafts with Them, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

78

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

3–6

 

Percentage of First-Time Kindergartners Passing Each Mathematics Proficiency Level, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

82

3–7

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by the Frequency with Which Parents Say They Persist at a Task, Are Eager to Learn New Things, and Are Creative in Work or Play, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

86

3–8

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by the Frequency with Which Teachers Say They Persist at a Task, Are Eager to Learn New Things, and Pay Attention Well, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

90

3–9

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by the Frequency with Which Parents Say They Engage in Prosocial Behavior, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

94

3–10

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by the Frequency with Which Teachers Say They Engage in Prosocial Behavior, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

98

3–11

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by the Frequency with Which Teachers Say They Exhibit Antisocial Behavior, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

102

3–12

 

Percentage Distribution of First-Time Kindergartners by the Frequency with Which Parents Say They Exhibit Antisocial Behavior, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

106

3–13

 

First-Time Kindergartners’ Mean Fine Motor Skills Score and Percentage Distribution of Scores, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

118

3–14

 

First-Time Kindergartners’ Mean Gross Motor Skills Score and Percentage Distribution of Scores, by Child and Family Characteristics: Fall 1998,

 

120

3–15

 

Percentage of First-Time Kindergartners Whose Parents Reported Developmental Difficulty in Terms of Activity Level, Attention, Coordination, and Pronunciation of Words: Fall 1998,

 

123

4–1

 

Longitudinal Studies,

 

134

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
×

4–2

 

Curriculum Comparison Studies Completed,

 

140

4–3

 

Types of Preschool Education Settings for Children from Other than English-Speaking Homes in the United States,

 

158

8–1

 

Examples of Children’s Development in Early Reading and Writing and in Mathematics,

 

279

8–2

 

Summary of State Content Standards for Teaching Children in Prekindergarten Programs,

 

280

8–3

 

Child Care Licensing, State Requirement,

 

304

BOXES

4–1

 

The Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale,

 

154

4–2

 

Educational Environments for Preschoolers with Disabilities,

 

168

5–1

 

Little Books,

 

192

5–2

 

Literacy Enhanced Sociodramatic Play,

 

192

5–3

 

Literacy as a Source of Enjoyment,

 

193

5–4

 

Dialogic Reading,

 

197

5–5

 

Rightstart™ The Number Line Game,

 

203

5–6

 

Bag It,

 

207

5–7

 

ScienceStart!™ Air,

 

210

5–8

 

Tools of the Mind,

 

215

6–1

 

Approaches to Performance Assessment,

 

250

FIGURES

1–1

 

Percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education (both private and public): October 1965 to October 1997,

 

28

4–1

 

Number of children with disabilities ages 3 through 5 served in different educational environments 1996–1997,

 

168

Page xvii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2000. Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9745.
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5–1

 

Possible emergent literacy examples of curriculum priorities, ages 2–3,

 

187

5–2

 

Possible emergent literacy examples of curriculum priorities, ages 3–4,

 

188

6–1

 

Percentage of public school kindergarten teachers indicating whether various factors for kindergarten readiness were very important or essential,

 

256

9–1

 

Arenas through which research knowledge influences classroom practice,

 

310

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Eager to Learn

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Clearly babies come into the world remarkably receptive to its wonders. Their alertness to sights, sounds, and even abstract concepts makes them inquisitive explorers--and learners--every waking minute. Well before formal schooling begins, children's early experiences lay the foundations for their later social behavior, emotional regulation, and literacy. Yet, for a variety of reasons, far too little attention is given to the quality of these crucial years. Outmoded theories, outdated facts, and undersized budgets all play a part in the uneven quality of early childhood programs throughout our country.

What will it take to provide better early education and care for our children between the ages of two and five? Eager to Learn explores this crucial question, synthesizing the newest research findings on how young children learn and the impact of early learning. Key discoveries in how young children learn are reviewed in language accessible to parents as well as educators: findings about the interplay of biology and environment, variations in learning among individuals and children from different social and economic groups, and the importance of health, safety, nutrition and interpersonal warmth to early learning. Perhaps most significant, the book documents how very early in life learning really begins. Valuable conclusions and recommendations are presented in the areas of the teacher-child relationship, the organization and content of curriculum, meeting the needs of those children most at risk of school failure, teacher preparation, assessment of teaching and learning, and more. The book discusses:

  • Evidence for competing theories, models, and approaches in the field and a hard look at some day-to-day practices and activities generally used in preschool.
  • The role of the teacher, the importance of peer interactions, and other relationships in the child's life.
  • Learning needs of minority children, children with disabilities, and other special groups.
  • Approaches to assessing young children's learning for the purposes of policy decisions, diagnosis of educational difficulties, and instructional planning.
  • Preparation and continuing development of teachers.

Eager to Learn presents a comprehensive, coherent picture of early childhood learning, along with a clear path toward improving this important stage of life for all children.

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