Early Years Column

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To boost parents' involvement in their youngsters' schooling and ease child-care woes, the Hewlitt-Packard Company and the city schools of Santa Rosa, Calif., have launched a school at the firm's manufacturing facility there.

The Hidden Valley Satellite School, believed to be the first such work-site school in the Western United States, opened its doors this month to 47 kindergartners and 1st graders. The project, which also offers licensed before- and after-school care, is expected to eventually add 2nd- and 3rd-grade classes and to serve a total of 115 pupils.

The district's superintendent, Lewis Alsobrook, said he got the idea from a similar effort in Florida. He sees the program as a way to help parents who work far from their neighborhood schools.

On a visit to the new school, Mr. Alsobrook said, he "saw parents having lunch with students, volunteering in classrooms--things they could never do'' previously.

The firm gave the district $89,000 in seed money, prepared the site, and charged just $1 for a 10-year lease. The district covers all operating costs of the modular classroom units and provides teachers and materials.

In another move to help employees balance work and family, the NationsBank Corporation recently set up a $10 million fund for child- and elder-care projects.

The money will help build, fund, and improve child-care centers and summer, after-school, and vacation programs for the Charlotte, N.C.-based firm's 50,000 workers in nine states and the District of Columbia.

A University of Florida study is exploring how families can help curb disruptive and violent behavior in preschoolers.

The three-year study is designed to gauge the effectiveness of a "parent-child interaction therapy'' program being offered to 100 families whose preschool children have behavior problems.

The program teaches parents ways to improve relationships with their children and use discipline. The families will each get about 12 weeks of treatment.

The study is headed by Sheila Eyberg, a professor of clincial and health psychology at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

Children's relationships with their kindergarten teachers are "highly correlated'' with their 1st-grade performance, a University of Virginia study shows.

The study of 26 teachers and 430 children found that when kindergarten teachers described their interactions with children as troubled or conflict-ridden, those pupils were more apt to be retained in kindergarten and to have problems in 1st grade. Teachers' characterizations of warm, open relationships with pupils corresponded with less kindergarten retention and better behavior in 1st grade.

Even children identified as at risk of retention at school entry were less apt to be retained if relations with teachers were good, suggesting that positive teacher-child bonds "may act as a buffer to some risk conditions,'' said Robert C. Pianta, an associate professor of clinical and school psychology at the university and the study's lead investigator.

An article on the study appears in New Directions in Child Development, issue 58. Copies are available for $17.95 each plus shipping from Jossey-Bass Publishers, 350 Sansome St., San Francisco 94104; (415) 433-1767.

At-risk children who took part in pre-kindergarten classes in the Houston schools have fared much better in school than those who did not, a study reveals.

The longitudinal study by the district's research department--whose findings are consistent with other research nationally--tracked the performance of pre-K children through kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade. The program, launched in 1985 with state and local funds, serves 4-year-olds who have difficulty speaking English and come from families living below the poverty line.

The pre-K group had substantially higher attendance and promotion rates, grades, and standardized-test scores in school than did their peers without pre-K, and a larger share were at expected grade levels for their age in the 1990-91 school year.

Some 8,000 students are enrolled in pre-K classes in 150 Houston public schools, but the program is reaching only 10 percent to 15 percent of those eligible, said Frank Petruzielo, the district's superintendent. Citing a lack of space in already overcrowded schools, he said he would use the data to urge that plans for pre-K be included in school building and renovation projects.

The U.S. Education Department has issued a guide to help schools and communities meet the national education goal of insuring that all children enter school ready to learn.

In a question-and-answer format, it offers guidance in defining, assessing, and promoting readiness.

It also discusses the roles of parents, schools, and social agencies and cites model readiness programs, private-sector efforts, and federal grant sources.

Single copies of "Starting School Ready to Learn, Questions and Answers on Reaching National Education Goal 1'' are available for free from the Office of Policy and Planning, U.S. Education Department, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., Room 3127, Washington, D.C. 20202; (202) 401-0590.--D.C.

Vol. 12, Issue 22

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