Children Fare Well in For-Profit Day Care, Study Finds
WASHINGTON The first phase of a study on children in licensed private child-care centers shows that they are faring "exceedingly well in educational and social development," a report released here last week concludes.
The study, which the researchers say is the most comprehensive of its kind, looked primarily at for-profit centers, which some previous studies had suggested do not rank as highly as nonprofits in the quality of care they provide.
The research project was launched last year by the Foundation for Child Care Research and Education, an organization rounded by leaders in the proprietary child-care industry.
It was led by two University of Arizona educators with the Tucson-based research firm Assessment Technology Inc. who have conducted extensive research on children's cognitive and social development.
The researchers, John R. Bergan and Jason K. Feld, gathered data on 1,480 4-year-olds in 122 child-care centers in 15 states as part of an ongoing study on the effects of center-based care on children's development. On average, the children spent nine hours a day, five days a week, 49 weeks a year in a center.
Results from the first year showed that 91 percent of the children exhibited "advanced levels" in social development and knowledge of nature and science. Eighty-nine percent were at advanced levels in "pre-math" skills, such as recognition of numbers and counting; about 80 percent were advanced in "pre-reading' skills.
The study assessed children's skills using the "MAPs" developmental-assessment scales designed to indicate what children have accomplished as well as what they are ready to learn. It also gathered data on child, family, teacher, and program characteristics.
'Readiness' Goal Cited
Among the centers surveyed, more than 96 percent reported offering educational-activity centers in reading, mathematics, and science; more than 90 percent provide music and arts activity centers; and 58 percent have a "computer area." More than half provide vision and hearing screening, and 54 percent offer speech and language screening.
The researchers also found that many of the programs have established networks with community agencies, schools, and professional groups. Ninety-eight percent provide workshops for teachers; about half offer workshops for parents.
The researchers said the study findings are significant in view of the goal set by President Bush and the nation's governors to ensure that all children enter school ready to learn.
But the study also highlights the need to ensure that schools are "ready for [children] and can build on the kinds of experiences they have received in child care," said Mr. Bergan, the president of Assessment Technology and director of the University of Arizona's Center for Educational Evaluation and Measurement.
Information on the study is available from the Foundation for Child Care Research and Education Inc., 1233 20th St., N.W., Suite 501, Washington, D.C. 20036.