Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

The "Degree" of Instructor Education and Child Outcomes in Junior Kindergarten: A Comparison of Certificated Teachers and Early Childhood Educators

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

The "Degree" of Instructor Education and Child Outcomes in Junior Kindergarten: A Comparison of Certificated Teachers and Early Childhood Educators

Article excerpt

Abstract. The goal of this study was to explore differences in the social and cognitive development of 4-year-old children in junior kindergarten, taught by groups of differentially educated instructors. Indices of social competence and social skills (i.e., solitary play, reticent behaviors, sociodramatic play) and cognitive skills (i.e., vocabulary, storybook knowledge, counting) were assessed for children in classrooms instructed by early childhood educators (with 2-year college degrees in early childhood education) and by teachers (who have obtained a university teaching certificate). Results from a series of MANOVAs indicated that children taught by differentially educated teachers did not differ in terms of social and cognitive skills. Results are discussed in terms of conceptual and policy implications associated with the use of differentially educated early childhood instructors.

An increasing proportion of children below the age of 5 are attending educationally based early childhood programs (Kostelnik, Soderman, & Whiren, 1993). For example, 79.4% of all Canadian children age 3 to 5 years spent an average of 23.9 hours a week in non-parental care. Of these children, 49.4% were attending preschool or kindergarten programs (Statistics Canada, 1993). More recent statistics from the United States indicate that in 1996, 37% of 3-year-olds, 58% of 4-year-olds, and an astounding 90% of 5-year-olds were enrolled in preprimary education programs (Snyder & Wirt, 1998). One contemporaneous area of concern in both research and education realms has been the assessment of potential advantages provided by pre-kindergarten programs. In the present study, an examination was undertaken of the social and cognitive functioning of children enrolled in a public school-based, pre-kindergarten program taught by two groups of differentially educated instructors.

Results from a substantial body of research findings suggest that the experience of quality early education programs has a positive and tangible effect on many aspects of children's later adjustment. Overall, children attending early education programs, as compared to children who do not, have lower rates of special education placement; are less likely to be held back or to repeat a grade in school; are more likely to graduate from high school; show a reduction in delinquency, dropout, and teenage pregnancy rates; display a more positive academic attitude; and are more likely to become employed (Berrueta-Clement, Schweinhart, Barnett, Epstein, & Weikart, 1984; Gray, Ramsey, & Klaus, 1983; Haskins, 1989; Lally, Mangione, & Honig, 1988). These beneficial outcomes are evident both in the short term and later in life (e.g., Andersson, 1989; Fergusson, Horwood, & Lynskey, 1994; Osborn & Milbank, 1987; Schweinhart, Weikart, & Larner, 1986; Weikart & Schweinhart, 1991; Whitebrook, Howes, & Phillips, 1990).

From a social perspective, positive effects of early out-of-home care have been noted in the areas of self-concept (e.g., Pitcher-Baker, 1973), communication skills (e.g., McCartney, 1984) and cognitive styles (e.g., Stevens, 1982). In terms of their behaviors, children with previous educational experiences have been reported to be more independent and self-sufficient (e.g., Clarke-Stewart, 1982), to engage in more positive peer interaction (e.g., Vliestra, 1981), and to be more outgoing, helpful, cooperative, and empathetic, and less timid and fearful (e.g., Clarke-Stewart, 1982)than home-reared children.

From an academic perspective, children who attend educationally based pre-kindergarten programs generally score higher on later tests of math and language skills than children who do not. For example, Gullo and Burton (1992) reported that 3-and 4-year-old children who had attended pre-kindergarten programs scored higher than controls on tests assessing the knowledge and skills required for 1st-grade reading and mathematics. …

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