Patterns of Quality Experienced by African American Children in Early Education Programs: Predictors and Links to Children's Preschool and Kindergarten Academic Outcomes

By Iruka, Iheoma U.; Morgan, Jenille | The Journal of Negro Education, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Patterns of Quality Experienced by African American Children in Early Education Programs: Predictors and Links to Children's Preschool and Kindergarten Academic Outcomes


Iruka, Iheoma U., Morgan, Jenille, The Journal of Negro Education


Research consistently demonstrates that high-quality early care and education programs (ECE) produce significant short-term and long-term cognitive, social, and emotional gains in children who participate (Barnett, 2011; Burchinal et al., 2008; Camilli et al., 2010; Winsler et al., 2008; Zaslow et al., 2010). Immediate effects of ECE include improved academic performance (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2002a; Peisner-Feinberg et al., 2001), higher achievement test scores, stronger quantitative skills (Votruba-Drzal, Coley, & Chase-Lansdale, 2004), and better language production and comprehension (Tran & Weinraub, 2006). Research studies also demonstrate that high quality ECE also have significant lasting effects on cognitive abilities (IQ and achievement test scores), school progress (grade repetition, special education placement, and educational attainment), and social behavior (reduced delinquency and crime) (Aos et al., 2004; Karoly, Kilbum, & Cannon, 2005).

While high quality ECE is beneficial for all children, some studies reveal it can be especially critical for children from economically disadvantaged families (Burchinal et al., 2010; Sabol & Pianta, 2014). Studies indicate that ECE can be an even stronger predictor of positive outcomes for ethnic minority children, who are likely to be from low-income homes, than for more advantaged children (Burchinal et al., 2000; Burchinal et al., 2006; Caughy, DiPietro, & Strobino, 1994; Peisner-Feinberg et al., 2001; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010; Vandell et al., 2010). Two of the oldest and best known longitudinal studies demonstrating longterm benefits of ECE for predominantly low-income African American children are the Abecedarian and the High/Scope Perry Preschool projects. Both of these studies showed that highquality early care can have lasting positive effects, some reaching well into adulthood (Belfield et al., 2006; Pungello et al., 2010). However, a more recent report found that African American children are likely to experience lower quality early education programs compared to their White counterparts (Barnett, Carolan, & Johns, 2013).

As more attention is beginning to focus on ECE, including through the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant competition, questions are being asked regarding what constitutes quality and how to improve and incentivize quality, especially for children most at risk for school failure (e.g., minority children, children from low-income households; Sabol & Pianta, 2014). Since quality is multi-dimensional, encompassing structural (e.g., education, child-teacher ratio) and process (e.g., teacher-child interactions) features (Cassidy et al., 2005), it is important to:

* understand the patterns of quality that African American children are likely to experience,

* examine the extent to which child, family, teacher, and program characteristics are associated with patterns of quality, and

* know how patterns of quality are associated with children outcomes.

Conceptual Framework

Children's development is influenced by multiple systems (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2007). Nevertheless, the most proximal system-families and ECE programs-have the largest and most direct impact on children's development (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2007). Studies have noted that ECE experiences, particularly the quality of the learning environment, can have a profound impact on children's early development and learning (see Magnuson & Waldfogel, 2005; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2000; Vandell et al., 2010). It is posited that high quality ECE provides children with stable, nurturing, and responsive caregivers, language-rich environments, and supports children's socio-emotional and physical development. Garcia Coll and colleagues (1996) noted that promoting (rather than inhibiting) environments are particularly beneficial for minority children's development, while also considering other child (e. …

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