Rural Influence on the Use of Transition Practices by Preschool Teachers
Murphy, Melissa A., McCormick, Katherine M., Rous, Beth S., Rural Special Education Quarterly
Early childhood transition services for children play a vital role in their successful entry to school; however, little is known regarding factors that may impact the use of various important transition practices. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a community demographic characteristic (specifically, ruraliry) on the reported use of specific transition practices. Preschool teachers' report of their use of transition practices was evaluated in a nationally representative sample of 2,434 teachers. Results revealed significant differences in the utilization use of 11 transition practices between rural and urban classrooms. Further, teachers in rural communities utilired used a different number of transition practices in comparison to their urban peers. The implications of this study and needed future research are discussed.
Keywords: early childhood, rural, urban, transition, preschool, kindergarten
Recent changes in education legislation and national initiatives (e.g., Race to the Top, Early Learning Challenge Grants) have demonstrated a significant increase in the focus on early childhood education and services for high risk populations, including young children with disabilities and their families. Consequently, research and attention has been devoted to applying best practice guidelines for these populations. One such practice is the use of transition strategies to aid children and families in the move from community- and family-centered services to school-based services. The utilization of transition practices in early childhood education has been found to improve educational outcomes and family-school communications (Entwisle & Alexander, 1998; Schulting, Malone, &. Dodge, 2005). Unfortunately, there are significant barriers to schools and service providers in utilizing these practices, and many families of children with and without disabilities do not always receive information and supports that could aid in a successful transition to school (Fowler, Chandler, Johnson, &. Stella, 1988; Love, Logue, Trudeau, &. Thayer, 1992; Rous, Myers, &. Stricklin, 2007). Currently, little information is available regarding the factors that may influence the use of transition practices, such as demographic characteristics of the child, family, teacher or service provider, and community. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine how a community demographic characteristic (specifically, rurality) may influence the utilization of transition practices.
In response to legislation and initiatives, there has been a push to expand early childhood services (U.S. Department of Education, 2009) and provide additional funding to invest in early learning (e.g., the Early Learning Initiative; U.S. Department of Education, 2012). Quality early care and education services during the early childhood years repeatedly have been found to impact later outcomes, especially for children with special needs (Espe-Sherwindt, 2008). These educational services before the age of school entry are often community-based and center on the family and their needs as a whole. Services are provided through public or private early care and education programs and delivered in an early childhood center, in the home of a family-care provider, or in the child's home. National data for 2011 suggest that 39 states provide public preschool services for children from risk-populations (e.g., children with identified disabilities and children at risk due to health status, such as prematurity; or environmental risk due to lack of resources, such as poverty or homelessness; Barnett, Carolan, Fitzgerald &. Squires, 2011). In addition, there are legislative mandates highlighting the importance of early education, most recently with a renewed emphasis on School Readiness (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2011). One component of preparing children for school is supporting them as they transition to preschool or kindergarten. …