As the debate over early childhood education funding shifts from if these programs should be funded to which programs to fund, the role of quality becomes more important than ever. Policymakers need some method of assessing which programs provide higher quality education to early learners. The purpose of this paper is to explore two policy-alterable measures of quality in an early childhood education program: the continuity and directedness of instructional approaches in the years from pre-kindergarten through third grade (PK-3). Research indicates that continuity is important for sustaining early childhood academic gains and that that there are different cognitive benefits for child-initiated or teacher-directed instructional approaches (Schweinhart, 1997). Student performance on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) is explored in third and eighth grade as indicators of the significance of continuity and directedness. Longitudinal data encompassing pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and first through third grades from the Chicago Longitudinal Study are examined to explore the effects of the instructional approaches implemented in the Child-Parent Center Education Program for over 980 participants. This publicly-funded intervention begins in pre-kindergarten and provides up to 6 years of service in inner-city Chicago schools. OLS regression models will control for child and school characteristics, prior achievement, and parent involvement. These models are analyzed to determine differences in performance for students who experienced varying continuity and instructional approaches from pre-kindergarten through third grade. The continuity of instructional approaches from pre-kindergarten through early elementary school was linked to improved academic performance for students who experienced a High Child/High Teacher instructional approach throughout the PK-3 continuum. Evidence of enduring effects was strongest for those students who experienced this continuity and performance was poor for students who did not experience a strong continuity of the High Child/High Teacher instructional approach.
Continuity and Curriculum: The Impact of High Quality Education in the PK – 3 Years.
Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
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