As the Twig Is Bent--Lasting Effects of Preschool Programs

By Consortium for Longitudinal Studies. | Go to book overview

Whatever effect the program had on the child's family that could have produced this outcome was a durable one. The mere fact fewer treatment children ended up in special classes is a finding that suggests a home visit program such as outlined in this chapter is a valid way to educate parents to help their children in school-relevant areas of functioning.


A CONCLUDING STATEMENT

This chapter has summarized six projects initiated by Ira J. Gordon from mid-1966 until that fall of 1978. The aims of the projects were ambitious and innovative. In 1966 most research involving infants was observational with little or no active intervention. Gordon believe it would be possible to combine a quality intervention program designed to "break the poverty cycle" with quality research. The projects were designed to demonstrate this belief through a longitudinal experimental design that included yearly measurement until the children reached age 11. There is no question regarding the initial issue--the "poverty cycle" cannot be "broken" by a project such as this. It is clear, however, that intervention into the lives of disadvantaged infants can result in reliable performance differences as long as 8 years after end of intervention. This is a powerful effect and it must be assumed that some of the underlying reason is due to changes in the mothers that, in turn, enhance the children's school performance.

Although attrition could be cited a problem in the generalization of these findings, there have been many programs since 1966 that have used Gordon"s methods. Although most of these program have not pursued the infants after intervention, the results are consistent. Program evaluations show distinct advantages sto infants resulting from the intervention efforts. Repreated longitudinal research in such projects would help to resolve the significance of the attrition in the Gordon studies.

When the children entered the public schools, new forces acted to modify their behavior and patterns of school achievement, The children's public school experience came on the heels of racial integration with crosstown busing and some social upheaval. It is natural that such variables would interact with home forces to further affect the child. With these and many other external forces acting on the children since intervention ceased, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Gordon's Parent Education Project is that there have been such sustained differences at all.

The most intense intervention for project children occurred when they were less than 3 years old and yet they appear to have been affected in permanent ways. We do not know exactly what produced the differences but we do know that they are permanent and have benefited the children. We also know that no matter what the effect of the program the environmental forces will continued to

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