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Early-Childhood Education, Intervention Are Focus of New Report

The results of dozens of research studies in early intervention and early-childhood education have been synthesized in a new report released by the federally funded Institute of Education Sciences.

Some of the instructional methods that have been connected to positive gains for students are nevertheless used infrequently, researchers have found. For example, the report says, "IES-supported investigators have found that children make substantially greater gains when they are enrolled in classrooms where teachers planned activities that they taught to groups of children and provided support to children as they were learning difficult skills. Yet in a study in an urban prekindergarten program, IES-supported researchers also found that teachers made infrequent use of group learning formats."

The research synthesis also found that many early education classrooms are lacking when it comes to imparting language, literacy, mathematics, and social skills to young children. Teachers of at-risk children are generally not engaging in frequent conversations and are failing to teach science and math other than counting or identifying simple shapes.

Children also tended to learn more literacy, language and social skills when placed in classrooms with more-advanced peers, but programs such as Head Start and some state preschool programs tend to enroll children who may be at risk because they come from poor families, researchers have found.

But the report says there are ways to overcome these issues. Teachers who learn strategies to engage children in print-focused conversations during group-reading time often produce a boost in literacy skills for their young pupils. And structured curricula in math can improve children's knowledge of the subject.

The research synthesis examines only the results of studies that were funded through the National Center on Education Research or the National Center on Special Education Research. The synthesis also limits its examination to research published in peer-reviewed journals from 2002 to June 2010. The report authors say their goal was to spell out what has been learned and to provide suggestions for further early-childhood education research.

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