Early Years Column
The American Academy of Pediatrics is expected within the next few months to release 400 pages of "model performance standards" for out-of-home child-care programs.
An outline presented at the A.A.P.'s annual meeting in New Orleans last month indicated that the standards would address such issues as staffing, health, nutrition, food services, infectious diseases, immunizations, children with special needs, facilities, and equipment.
Consistent with the guidelines of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the document will specify maximum staff-child ratios, which range from 1 to 3 for infants up to 24 months to 1 to 12 for 9- to 12-year-olds.
It will also include detailed provisions for diapering infants, recognizing and reporting child abuse, and the construction of indoor and outdoor play areas, equipment, and play surfaces.
The document will also recommend ways to help upgrade child-care licensing procedures.
"It would be impossible to ensure the health and safety of children in out-of-home child care without additional commitments to these essential services by individuals, voluntary agencies, and the public sector," the outline states.
To mend a "lack of unity" in the Montessori movement and bolster the quality and consistency of teacher training, a number of organizations and sponsors of training courses have formed a new accrediting agency for Montessori teacher-education programs.
Based on the work of the Italian physician Maria Montessori, the early-childhood teaching method stresses cooperative learning, multi-age grouping, and individualized, hands-on learning geared to children's level of development.
Once confined to a small cadre of private schools, the Montessori approach has been drawing increasing interest from public schools, although differences over how it should be adapted to today's schools have splintered the movement. (See Education Week, Dec. 13, 1989.)
While Montessori principles are on the "cutting edge of current educational reform," advocates maintained in announcing the new agency, "political fractionation" has caused confusion among those seeking Montessori training. It has also posed obstacles to state licensing of Montessori schools and federal recognition of existing accrediting bodies, said Joy Turner, president of the new Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education.
The new accrediting body, announced at a meeting of Montessori teacher educators in New Orleans last month, represents eight organizations, three consortia, and sponsors of more than 100 courses who have agreed to abide by a set of basic standards and share decisionmaking power.
"This will allow for at least the possibility of presenting a united front so we can all support what we've discovered we hold in common," Ms. Turner said.
The agency plans to apply to the U.S. Education Department for recognition in 1992. Approval would ease the way toward federal scholarships and other forms of aid for teaching candidates and courses, she noted, and boost "the credibility of Montessori teacher training in the wider educational community."
While the Congress recognized "the prime importance of the early years" in launching and expanding several early-childhood initiatives last year, existing programs lack a coherent focus "to create a foundation for an efficient and effective early-childhood system," according to the first director of Head Start.
In a new book, Jule M. Sugarman offers guidance on how to link and structure programs, ensure that they incorporate "appropriate-level developmental activities," involve parents, train staff, and forge collaboration among the health, education, and social-service sectors.
The book is the first project of the Center for Effective Services for Children, a new Washington-based organization rounded by Mr. Sugarman. It details how states and communities can coordinate planning, funding, and services for children and families and describes the laws governing major early-childhood programs.
Building Early Childhood Systems: A Resource Handbook is available for $13.95 plus shipping from the Child Welfare League of America, c/o CSSC, 300 Raritan Center Parkway, Edison, N.J. 08818-7816.
Preschool has a greater impact on improving student performance than any other single educational variable, a new study suggests.
The study involved all 115,000 3rd graders in Pennsylvania's 1,505 public schools. It was headed by William W. Cooley, a professor of education with the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center.
Controlling for socioeconomic and other demographic factors, Mr. Cooley found that children with preschool experience scored higher in reading and mathematics on state tests in the 3rd and 5th grades than did those without it.
The preschool effect was "dominant," he said, over factors such as teacher pay, class size, and per-pupil spending.
The study, one in a series aimed at helping state policymakers set priorities, showed that disadvantaged pupils without preschool often "begin their schooling a step behind others in their learning skills and stay behind," Mr. Cooley said. --D.C.