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Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children

Early Instruction and Later Academic Achievement of Disadvantaged

Jasmine Fayez
St. Johns University
Evidence indicates the disadvantaged and lower class children are intellectually inferior
to middle class children by the time they enter school, and as school continues this gap widens.
here is a !" gap present even before a child enters school. he environment of the lower class
child lac#s much of the opportunity and stimulation for intellectual growth present in the middle
and upper class environment. his research e$amines eight articles focused on preschool
education of the lower class and the upper middle class and participant observation of two
preschools with different socioeconomic students as well as resources and family life to discover
why this early gap e$ists.
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
he achievement gap in education refers to the gap of dissimilarity in academic
performance between groups of students according to class, race and socio economic statues.
%ften, at the lower end of the performance scale includes &frican'&merican and (ispanic
students and at the higher end, non'(ispanic white peers. his gap is recognizable in test scores,
grades) drop out rates and college entrances and completion. &s these students continue through
school this gap widens and continues to e$pand throughout a lifetime. hese studies begin with
school aged achievement, #indergarten'college. *et, studies show that a !" gap is already
persistent at the very beginning of +indergarten. here are many ,uestions to be as#ed about this
early disadvantage and what is to blame such as the ,uality of preschools vs. the family.
Environmental aspects:
-isadvantaged children have been proven to be intellectually inferior to .iddle /lass
children by the time they enter school. &s 0iaget and (unt previously stated, this low
performance early on, is a factor of hereditary, primarily. .odernly, it is seen to be a transaction
between child and the environment, nurture as well as nature. 1hen comparing a low income
child to a .iddle income child, characteristics vary. & low income child lac#s curiosity, is poorly
motivated and has a tendency to withdraw from learning and school situations. &s 2iegler
discovered, the main difference between disadvantaged children and middle class children is
motivation. (e came to the conclusion that disadvantaged children wor# better if they are
rewarded with material, such as candy while middle class children wor# better if the reward is
simply being right and #nowing they were successful. & factor which combines both biology and
environment of lower income children can be seen when loo#ing at psychologists, (arlow and
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
3erlynes animal study. his study came to the conclusion that curiosity is displayed when
animals are both free from basic needs such as hunger, pain and an$iety, and are placed in
familiar surroundings with novel aspects. he low income child has a lac# of basic resources and
is constantly in the present of want for material, food and attention. &lso, the low income child is
constantly in limited and crowded spaces, in small homes, and in small and crowded preschool
classrooms. 4astly, these children have a lac# of environmental order, constantly being faced
with disruptions either within there own primary group or in those surrounding the community.
4ower class children, when compared to middle class children, also posses a larger number of
children within their family, wor#ing or absent parents, which reduces the amount of adult
attention and a lac# of toys which curtails opportunity for achievement and sensory motor
e$perience. 4ower class dialect also effects a childs speech development, as studies show that
well formed language within a child is determined by the number of well formed sentences the
child is e$posed to. 1ith a cultural speech pattern that includes improper English and words such
as 5aint6, a child is destined to adopt this language and spea# improperly as well as write and
read with a disability. his leads us into literacy as the basis for the ongoing gap.
&n e$emplary model of early reading growth and e$cellence combines classroom
practices that are grounded in empirical research, a multi tiered intervention, professional
development and continuous modeling. 4earning to read and write begins early in a childs
development, before they enter #indergarten through environmental words and e$pository and
natural learning. For e$ample the word 5.c -onalds6 is #nown by every child, even if they can
not read. his literacy development in early childhood provides the foundation for childrens
long term academic success. %ver the past two decades, researchers have identified #ey emergent
literacy s#ills that develop in children during their preschool years and are highly predictive of
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
later success in learning to read 73urns, 8riffin 9 snow, :;;;<. hese s#ills include phonological
awareness, the hearing and manipulation of smaller sounds in words, letter #nowledge,
identifying and naming letters, print awareness, noticing print and following words on a page and
oral language such as describing events, telling and retelling stories. 7/asey 9 (owe, !==!<.
1ea#ness in s#ills and subse,uent reading failure are most common among low income, non
white children and among children with limited proficiency in English and >?" of @
who ,ualified for free or reduced lunch scored below the basic level of achievement in reading.
7Aational /enter for Education Statistics< he defects in early reading s#ills and the beginning of
+indergarten tend to remain or increase throughout elementary school, ma#ing early literacy
instruction crucial in order for academic achievement. Bf a child can not read correctly, they will
not be able to read or understand other academic material correctly. Carely do children who enter
school with limited language and literacy s#ills catch up and are at a high ris# of being referred
to special education services. & child who completes second grade with being functionally
illiterate has only a !D" chance of reading at the re,uired level by the end of elementary school.
his creates a continuously widening gap overall between children who have good literacy s#ills
and those who do not 73adian)!===, Juel);?, Snow);?<
& main influence in intellectual growth and development in early childhood are teacher
characteristics. (ead start, the first proEect which noticed a need for nation wide involvement in
early childhood education, developed a set curriculum for their teachers to follow. he type of
teacher in the classroom 5stimulates intellectual development6. eachers who spent more time
communicating with children and less time playing with them and enforcing obedience, who
were fle$ible, had tolerance and the ability to place ones self in anothers role had students who
were more achieving, cooperative, active, involved and independent in their +indergarten and
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
first grade classes. 7Eisenberg 9 /onners< Fred 4. Strodtbec# studied the intellectual gains in
eight classrooms of disadvantaged children and found that the most achieving students had
warm, active and tal#ative teachers, while the poorest academic gains had a therapeutically and
mothering oriented teacher who offered support emotionally, but little to no instruction,
concluding that the most beneficial teacher is one who initiates interaction, motivates e$ploration
and reinforces achievements. CB models 7Standall 9 Schwarte)!==!< developed a method of
teaching young children with special needs in preschools by ma#ing curriculum modifications,
embedding a focus on individual childrens obEectives and providing individualized education
program goals. 1ithin this program is E.EC8E, :D classrooms that serve low income families
residing in racially segregated and culturally diverse neighborhoods. ;=" of the students were at
the federal poverty level, with ;="';D" of the student population being of &frican &merican
decent. he framewor# goals in which E.EC8E and CB programs were wor#ing towards were
&< to ma$imize the use of research based practices to support childrens development of early
literacy s#ills. 3< to increase the amount of time children are engaged in interactive shared boo#
readings. /< to incorporate a thematic, integrated, research'supported curriculum and -< to
implement screening and process monitoring procedures to identify children who re,uire more
intensive intervention.
Frances Early Childhood Education ystem as a conclusion for closing the achievement
France recognizes universal pre #indergarten as the first building bloc# of a childs
education as a mechanism for ensuring greater e,uality of opportunity for children across the
socio economic spectrum. hey developed a system of early care and education for all children
including an infrastructure of governance, training and monitoring with clear goals, standards
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
and principals. &lso, France provides training and curriculum, bridging pre'#indergarten with
#indergarten, and higher wages for teacher, promoting a high ,uality well trained staff. he goal
of the French is to 5give more to those who have less6 in order to reduce social ine,ualities.
-isadvantaged bac#grounds receive more resources, reduced class sizes, additional staff, more
educational materials and teacher bonuses. Cesources are targeted towards specific geographic
areas based on socioeconomic need, which reduces stigma, segregation of services by income
and ethnicity and attracts broader political support.
Lo! income Family Life:
-evelopment of child academic success is heavily influenced by home literacy practices.
/hildren from low income families with limited English proficiency are often reared in homes
that fail to provide sufficient early literacy e$periences and materials to promote print related
s#ills. Families of low income typically do not support the ac,uisition of literacy s#ills to the
same degree that parents of higher socio economic status do. 7/ambell, 8oldstein,;:< .iddle
income children begin school having as many as >,=== boo#s read to them, low'income children
may start never start reading a boo# until upon entering school 7.oustafa) ;F< . &lso children
from high'ris# low socio economic families are often at ris# for delays in language development
and provide fewer instances of the critical behaviors that support both language and positive
social interactions. 4ow income parents, tal# less, they provide fewer models of linguistic form
as well as the use of specific language to mediate their environment.
he following research too# place at two 0reschools in Gueens, Aew *or#. School & was
located in a low socio economic community where the average area income per household was
below average at H@:,;=I yearly. &ll names of schools and individuals have been changed to
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
protect the privacy and security of the observed. .ost members of this community did not
graduate high school and most of those who did, did not finish college. he total household
e$penditure is below average including, education, food, shelter, healthcare, person care,
transportation and literacy, while the crime rate is above average. School 3 was located in
middle to high class community. .ost members had a college degree and the total household
e$penditure was above average with homes ranging from HF==,=== to H!,===,===.
& day at School &J
he classroom environmentJ he classrooms were all e$tremely small, some did not include
doors and younger children did not have chairs or tables. he school was made of eight
classrooms including infants and two years old, three of these classrooms being head start
classrooms. he classrooms had a moderate amount of toys and boo#s for the children, but many
were bro#en and destroyed. he classrooms are set up with environmental words, in English
Spanish and Urdu, yet are not on childrens eye level and are thus ineffective. he classroom
schedule is displayed in the classrooms, include a morning meeting, reading time and circle time,
yet they are not implemented throughout the day. here is no strict scheduling besides arrival,
snac# time, lunch time and nap time. here is one classroom teacher for each class along with
one to three teacher assistants. %nly one teacher has an early childhood degree and many are
immigrants, who spea# bro#en English. here is no instruction in the classroom, instead teachers
serve as 5baby sitters6 who spea# to children only to reprimand or discipline them. he average
student cannot spell their name and #nows some letters and some colors. 3ehavioral problems
are common, children lac# problem solving s#ills and concepts of sharing and ta#ing turns.
.any students are bilingual.
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
& day at School 3J
he classroom environmentJ he classrooms were a moderate size and very organized. he
school was made up of four classrooms including infants and two years olds. he classrooms
include organized areas for dramatic play and everything had a place with many different toys
and options for children to choose. he classroom included environmental words in English and
(ebrew, at childrens eye level, as well as childrens art wor# and proEects covering the walls.
he classroom schedule included brea#fast, a morning meeting, circle time, read aloud, choice
time, snac#, playground, (ebrew lesson, lunch, nap time and an English lesson, all of which are
implemented at the displayed times. here is one classroom teacher for each class along with one
eachers assistant and therapists and aids for children in need. &ll teachers have early childhood
degrees, e$cept for the infant class. &ll teachers spea# English and (ebrew. here is organized
instruction in the classroom and lesson plans are implemented along with student wor#sheets,
dittos and proEects. he average student can spell their name, or most of their name, #now the
alphabet, #now their colors and are aware of some phonemes. 3ehavioral problems are common
but are resolved ,uic#ly through conversation rather than orders. .any students are bilingual and
School & case studyJ 53ec#y6.
3ec#y is a four year old student at School &. Unli#e other students at school &, 3ec#y
can write her name, she #nows the alphabet and phonemes, #nows all her colors and memorizes
songs and games ,uic#ly. She is very social and got along well with others. (aving the same
resources as her classmates, there being no direct instruction at the preschool and limited
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
opportunities for in,uiry learning, 3ec#y must have learned these s#ills in an different
environment, that environment, being the home. 3ec#ys mother was very active in her childs
education. She would attend all family involvement events and e$press interest in what her
daughter involved herself in and her development.
School 3 case studyJ 5-avid6.
-avid is a four year old student at School 3. &long with other students in his school,
-avid possess and demonstrates many s#ills. (e is very motivated and social) he e$presses
feelings with a variety of vocabulary and has a strong interest in academics. *et, -avids parents
are rarely seen at the school. he classroom teacher has never met his parents and has had very
little communication with them through letters sent from school to home. -avids parents have
ta#en very little interest in his academic performance.
3oth -avid and 3ec#y maintain similar academic levels yet e$perience very different
family lives. Even though 3ec#y belongs to a single parent low income house hold, her parent
too# it upon herself to teach her child outside of school and encourage and motivate her
academically, leading to her daughter success. -avids parents, even though they have a high
income, ta#e little to no interest in his academic development and instead e$pect others to teach
their child. he only involvement -avids parents had in his education was paying the tuition in
order to send him to a highly ,ualified preschool, which provided him with the foundations
needed. his shows that even though there is a gap economically, this gap can be reduced by
parent involvement from the lower socio economic class. .iddle class families have the
resources and capital to send children to well run schools, lower class families do not. &lso,
lower class families struggle with many necessities that the middle class ta#es for granted, such
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
as transportation. .any families from School & traveled by train and bus ma#ing commuting
during constructions and in bad weather more difficult and tedious interfering with their time and
availability to ta#e their children to school. Even though family life is important in raising a child
academically, middle class families have the resources to 5buy their responsibilities6 by hiring
nannies, paying high tuition for schooling, purchasing developmental toys and hiring tutors,
where lower class families do not have this option.
&lthough families are a strong influence on their childrens academic growth, resources
based on socio economic status influence a childs growth an e,ual amount. Bt is not that one
outweighs the other, but it is that one can ta#e the place of the other. & lac# of resources but a
strong family involvement in education will have the same outcome of a lac# of family
involvement but a strong availability of resources. & conclusion to narrowing the achievement
gap begins with being proactive, and starting as early as possible, this being pre'#indergarten
education. his could be implemented by adopting from Frances educational structure by
developing a system of early care for all children and to target additional resources in low'
income communities. he conclusion is summarized by two words, 5high ,uality6. his means
high ,uality families and high ,uality schools and teachers funded by the Ao child 4eft 3ehind
&ct. Since the lower class has many struggles within their family life, it can not be guaranteed
that a child is raised in a well off home, but it can be guaranteed that a child receives proper
education through government and state reform.
Early Instruction and Later Achievement of Disadvantaged Children
American Federation of Teachers (2002). Building A Strong
Foundation for the Future. Educational Issues Policy Brief.
Peer S. (2000). E!ual From The Start. "earning from the French
%al&er '. (reen)ood *. (+,,-). Prediction of school outcomes
.ased on early language $roduction and socioeconomic factors.
/ational 0esearch *ouncil (/0*) (+,,10. Pre2enting reading
difficulties in 3oung *hildren.
The Institute (+,,,) /ational Sur2ey of America5s families.
%ashington '*
4.S. 'e$artment of Education 6ffice of Educational 0esearch and
Im$ro2ement /ational Institute on Early *hildhood 'e2elo$ment
and Education (2000). School In2ol2ement in Early *hildhood.