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When economist James Heckman was studying the effects of job training programs on unskilled young workers, he found a mystery. He was comparing a group of workers that had gone through a job training program with a group that hadn't. And he found that, at best, the training program did nothing to help the workers get better jobs. In some cases, the training program even made the workers worse off.
The problem was that the students in the training program couldn't learn what they were being taught. They lacked an important set of skills which would enable them to learn new things. Heckman, a Nobel-Prize-winning economist, calls these soft skills.
You might not think of soft skills as skills at all. They involve things like being able to pay attention and focus, being curious and open to new experiences, and being able to control your temper and not get frustrated.
All these soft skills are very important in getting a job. And Heckman discovered that you don't get them in high school, or in middle school, or even in elementary school. You get them in preschool. And that, according to Heckman, makes preschool one of the most effective job-training programs out there.<snip>



Children's Early Learning Environments Boost School Readiness In Low-Income Families

Home learning experiences that are consistently supportive in the early years may boost low-income children's readiness for school. Previous research has found that on average, children living in poverty are less well prepared to start school than children from middle-income homes. During home visits when the children were approximately 1, 2, 3, and 5 years old, the researchers gathered information on how often children took part in literacy activities (such as shared book reading), the quality of mothers' engagements with their children (such as children's exposure to frequent and varied adult speech), and the availability of learning materials (such as children's books). From this information, the researchers calculated a total learning environment score at each age for each of the children. They also measured the number of words the children understood and their knowledge of letters and words at age 5. "The quality of children's environments over time varied greatly," according to Eileen T. Rodriguez, survey researcher at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., who led the study when she was at New York University. "Some children experienced environments that were uniformly low or high in language and literacy supports at all ages examined, while others experienced environments that changed as they developed."
The researchers found that differences in the children's learning environments over time predicted their readiness skills. As one example, children whose learning environments were consistently low in quality across the four ages studied were much more likely to have delays in language and literacy skills at pre-kindergarten than children whose environments were uniformly high at all the ages. "Our findings indicate that enriched learning experiences as early as the first year of life are important to children's vocabulary growth, which in turn provides a foundation for children's later school success," notes Rodriguez. Experiences that occur as children are poised to enter kindergarten also matter, particularly in contributing to children's early reading skills. "Home learning experiences that are consistently supportive in the early years may close the school readiness gap of children from low-income backgrounds," notes Rodriguez.


The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers July 27, 2010
How much do your kindergarten teacher and classmates affect the rest of your life? There has always been one major caveat, however, to the research on the fade-out effect. It was based mainly on test scores, not on a broader set of measures, like a child's health or eventual earnings.

As Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist, says: "We don't really care about test scores. We care about adult outcomes."

Mr. Chetty and five other researchers examined the life paths of almost 12,000 children who had been part of a well-known education experiment in Tennessee in the 1980s. When Mr. Chetty and his colleagues took another look at the students in adulthood, they discovered that the legacy of kindergarten had re-emerged.
Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds, were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more. All else equal, they were making about an extra $100 a year at age 27 for every percentile they had moved up the test-score distribution over the course of kindergarten.

A student who went from average to the 60th percentile — a typical jump for a 5-year-old with a good teacher — could expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than a student who remained at the average. Over time, the effect seems to grow, too.

Good early education can impart skills that last a lifetime - patience, discipline, manners, perseverance. The tests that 5-year-olds take may pick up these skills,even if later multiple-choice tests do not.
Is the Value of Education overrated?
Can an education protect workers in today's global economy? In truth, unemployment has risen far morefor the less educated. Education itself can make a difference. In the Project Star Tennessee experiment, some classes did far better than others. The differences were too big to be explained by randomness. (Similarly, when the researchers looked at entering and exiting test scores in first, second and third grades, they found that some classes made much more progress than others.) Class size played some role. Peers also seem to matter. But neither of these factors came close to explaining the variation in class performance.
IT IS THE TEACHERS Some are highly effective. Some are not. And the differences can affect students for years to come. Mr. Chetty and his colleagues — one of whom, Emmanuel Saez, recently won the prize for the top research economist under the age of 40 — estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. That's the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers. This estimate doesn't take into account social gains, like better health and less crime.


Bottom Line: Make sure your kid is the oldest one in the kindergarten class.

Kelly Bedard, a labor economist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, published a paper with Elizabeth Dhuey called "The Persistence of Early Childhood Maturity: International Evidence of Long-Run Age Effects" in The Quarterly Journal of Economics in November 2006 that looked at this phenomenon. “Obviously, when you're 5, being a year older is a lot, and so we should expect kids who are the oldest in kindergarten to do better than the kids who are the youngest in kindergarten,” Bedard says. But what if relatively older kids keep doing better after the maturity gains of a few months should have ceased to matter? What if kids who are older relative to their classmates still have higher test scores in fourth grade, or eighth grade?
After crunching the math and science test scores for nearly a quarter-million students across 19 countries, Bedard found that relatively younger students perform 4 to 12 percentiles less well in third and fourth grade and 2 to 9 percentiles worse in seventh and eighth; and, as she notes, “by eighth grade it's fairly safe to say we're looking at long-term effects.” In British Columbia, she found that the relatively oldest students are about 10 percent more likely to be “university bound” than the relatively youngest ones. In the United States, she found that the relatively oldest students are 7.7 percent more likely to take the SAT or ACT, and are 11.6 percent more likely to enroll in four-year colleges or universities. (No one has yet published a study on age effects and SAT scores.) “One reason you could imagine age effects persist is that almost all of our education systems have ability-groupings built into them,” Bedard says. “Many claim they don't, but they do. Everybody gets put into reading groups and math groups from very early ages.” Younger children are more likely to be assigned behind grade level, older children more likely to be assigned ahead. Younger children are more likely to receive diagnoses of attention-deficit disorder, too. “When I was in school the reading books all had colors,” Bedard told me. “They never said which was the high, the middle and the low, but everybody knew. Kids in the highest reading group one year are much more likely to be in the highest reading group the next. So you can imagine how that could propagate itself.” [1]

In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended No Screen Time At All For Babies Under 2, out of concern that the increasing use of media might displace human interaction and impede the crucially important brain growth and development of a baby's first two years.

Please keep in mind that participants are often shopping with young children; activities should be simple, portable, and not too messy.

Kindergarten Entry Skills
Overview of skills "considered necessary for a child when entering kindergarten." Topics include the importance of kindergarten entry factors as rated by kindergarten teachers (includes various social, perceptual, motor, and language development skills), and expected cognitive and motor skills. Also includes links to related sites. From the Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting (CEEP), part of the Early Childhood and Parenting (ECAP) Collaborative at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Ready for Kindergarten?
In this article five "kindergarten teachers from around the country ... share their insights on helping your child gain the right mix of kindergarten-readiness skills." Topics discussed include enthusiasm toward learning, oral-language skills, ability to listen, the desire to be independent, the ability to play well with others, strong fine-motor skills, and basic letter and number recognition.

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"Why Should the Kindergarten Be Incorporated as an Integral Part of the Public School System?"

By: Philander P. Claxton Journal of Proceedings and Addresses, National Education Association, 1913, 426–427.


Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, was the originator of the kindergarten, and he founded the first one in 1837.


In 1840 he coined the word kindergarten for the Play and Activity Institute he had founded in 1837 at Bad Blankenburg for young children, together with Wilhelm Middendorf and Heinrich Langethal. These two men were Fröbel’s most faithful colleagues. He designed the educational play materials known as Froebel Gifts, or Fröbelgaben, which included geometric building blocks and pattern activity blocks. A book entitled Inventing Kindergarten, by Norman Brosterman, examines the influence of Friedrich Fröbel on Frank Lloyd Wright and modern art.
Friedrich Fröbel's great insight was to recognise the importance of the activity of the child in learning. He introduced the concept of “free work” (Freiarbeit) into pedagogy and established the “game” as the typical form that life took in childhood, and also the game’s educational worth. Activities in the first kindergarten included singing, dancing, gardening and self-directed play with the Froebel Gifts. Fröbel intended, with his Mutter- und Koselieder – a songbook that he published – to introduce the young child into the adult world.
These ideas about childhood development and education were introduced to academic and royal circles through the tireless efforts of his greatest proponent, the Baroness (Freiherrin) Bertha Marie von Marenholtz-Bülow. Through her Fröbel made the acquaintance of the Royal House of the Netherlands, various Thuringian dukes and duchesses, including the Romanov wife of the Grand Duke von Sachsen-Weimar. Baroness von Marenholtz-Bülow, Duke von Meiningen and Fröbel gathered donations to support art education for children in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Goethe. The first was Czech educator John Amos Comenius, who in the 17th century introduced the idea that schools should teach infants. Another influence was French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, who wrote Émile (1762), a treatise on a child’s education in nature. In addition, Froebel was influenced by Swiss education reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who founded schools for infants in the late 18th and early 19th century. From 1808 to 1810 Froebel studied and worked at Pestalozzi’s school in Yverdon, Switzerland, where he learned the principles of so-called natural education. Froebel was drawn to Pestalozzi’s teaching methods, which were designed to stimulate the natural curiosity of children and to nourish their innate desire to learn.
Froebel developed his own ideas about education by combining his belief in scientific observation with his philosophical belief in the interconnectedness of all things. In addition, Froebel was concerned that the spread of industrialization would negatively affect the family, but he believed that kindergartens could elevate the status of mothers and children. Froebel’s ideas became increasingly popular in the 1840s, but because kindergartens were associated with liberalism and free-thinking,
Fröbel’s student Margarethe Schurz founded the first kindergarten in the United States at Watertown, Wisconsin in 1856, and she also inspired Elizabeth Peabody, who went on to found the first English-speaking kindergarten in the United States – the language at Schurz’s kindergarten had been German, to serve an immigrant community – in Boston in 1860. This paved the way for the concept’s spread in the USA. The German émigré Adolph Douai had also founded a kindergarten in Boston in 1859, but was obliged to close it after only a year. By 1885 there were 565 private kindergartens in the United States serving 29,716 students.
Charity kindergartens—or so-called free kindergartens—for children of the poor became one of the main instruments of the progressive women’s and social movements of the late 1880s and 1890s. Some of these schools were parts of settlement houses, such as Hull House in Chicago, established by American social reformer Jane Addams. The teachers from these charity kindergartens often made home visits and taught songs and games to mothers to use with their children. These meetings between parents and kindergarten teachers eventually helped lead to the founding of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, also known as the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).
In 1873 the St. Louis public school system established the first public kindergarten in the United States. Under the leadership of American educational reformer Susan Blow, St. Louis had 60 public kindergartens by 1885. By 1910 most major American cities offered public kindergarten education. However, once established in the public schools, kindergartens began to change. For example, they began to include more preacademic training and preparation for first grade. In addition, as kindergartens became a part of public education, some of their social work and outreach functions declined.

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