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Child-Development Study Gets $450,000 U.S. Grant

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Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have received a three-year, $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to complete a longitudinal study of the social and academic development of elementary-school children.

The study, now in its fourth year, is paying particular attention to the relationship between home and school, say the researchers, Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle, professors of sociology.

"There are a number of variables included in the data which will help untangle cause and effect in the early years of schooling," said Mr. Alexander. "At first consideration of the data, there are indications that a4child's social and academic potential is developed in the very early elementary years and that the relationship between the school and the home is a crucial factor in that development."

The research is said by Mr. Alexander and Ms. Entwisle to be the only sociological study of its kind.

In 1982, under grants from the National Institute for Child Health and Development and the Grant Foundation, the researchers began their work by selecting a representative sample of 800 1st-grade students enrolled in Baltimore city schools. Those pupils, most of whom are now in the 4th grade, represent a mixture of racial groups and come from a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

The researchers collect data on the children at the start and end of each school year through interviews with teachers, parents, and the students themselves.

"We're looking at teachers' expectations versus the students' marks, teachers' expectations versus students' socioeconomic status, and students' marks versus the psychological environment of the home," said Mr. Alexander.

In addition, the researchers are attempting to address such questions as whether the differences in mathematics achievement between boys and girls in the early years are sex-based, whether children's aspirations in such subjects are a product of their home environment or their teachers' influence, and how achievement patterns affect students' retention rates.

The study will also examine what happens to a child's social and academic achievement when the parents and the teacher have different expectations.

The research, which will follow the original group of children through the 6th grade, will be completed in 1988. But, according to Mr. Alexander, "it is our intention to be cautious and careful," and it could be several more years before the implications of the work are made available.--ab

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