Early-Years Column

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The Dade County school board has virtually banned retention in kindergarten and 1st grade.

The policy change was motivated by a new curriculum the district is launching and by research showing those retained are at greater risk of dropping out.

Last year, the district held back about 2 percent, or 848, of its kindergartners and 1st graders. The new rule allows retention in those grades only in special circumstances and with a regional superintendent's approval.

District officials said the new curriculum being launched in all schools this fall stresses developmentally appropriate teaching and flexible grouping to bolster the language skills of children ill prepared for school.

Drawing on materials developed in British Columbia, the Nebraska and Iowa education departments have issued a detailed framework for K-3 reform.

The guide adapts to American settings principles used in a major primary-reform effort by the province's ministry of education. It covers such issues as active learning, ungraded classrooms, assessment, subject-matter integration, and multiculturalism.

Copies of the 700-page document, "The Primary Program: Growing and Learning in the Heartland,'' are available for $25 each from Harriet Egertson, Office of Child Development, Nebraska Department of Education, 301 Centennial Mall South, P.O. Box 94987, Lincoln, Neb. 68509-4987.

The U.S. Labor Department has issued a guide to help businesses comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act, which took effect Aug. 5.

The law requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave, with health benefits, to tend to newborn or newly adopted children; ill children, parents, or spouses; or their own serious illnesses.

Schools can set some conditions to avoid class disruptions in cases where leave can be planned.

Copies of the compliance guide are available for free from the Employment Standards Administration, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Labor Department, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Room C4325, Washington, D.C. 20210.

A new study warns that the national education goal of insuring that all children enter school ready to learn will be "difficult to attain'' unless programs for poor preschoolers are expanded.

The General Accounting Office study shows there was a 28 percent increase from 1980 to 1990 in the number of poor preschool-aged children, compared with a 16 percent increase in the total number of preschool-aged children.

Only 35 percent of the poor 3- and 4-year olds attended preschool in 1990, compared with 45 percent of the nonpoor 3- and 4-year-olds and 60 percent of those in the highest income group. The situation was even worse in rural areas, where only 30 percent of poor children attended preschool.

Preschool is especially critical for poor and "near-poor'' children, the report says, because they are more likely to live in "linguistically isolated'' homes, single-parent families, and with undereducated parents.

Copies of the report, "Poor Preschool-Aged Children: Numbers Increase but Most Not in Preschool,'' GAO/HRD-93-111BR, are available for $2 each from the U.S. General Accounting Office, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20844-6015.

The kind of peer interaction day-care settings offer may have "long-lasting influences on infant learning and development,'' a new study suggests.

The study, published in the current issue of the journal Developmental Psychology, involved three experiments in which 14- to 18-month-old infants watched peers manipulating various toys.

In the first two, infants' ability to remember and imitate those skills was tested five minutes after they observed their peers in a laboratory and two days later at home. In the third, infants in day-care settings observed their peers and were tested two days later at home.

In all three cases, significant numbers imitated the skills they observed, showing that "even within a group setting and distracting environments, toddlers are able to encode their observations of peers' behaviors,'' even after a delay and change in context.

The Mailman Family Foundation has released a monograph highlighting issues raised at a 1992 symposium on parent involvement in early care.

Copies of "Parent Choice in Early Care and Education: Myth or Reality,'' by Sharon L. Kagan and Peter R. Neville, are available for free from the A.L. Mailman Family Foundation Inc., Vickie Frelow, Program Officer, 707 Westchester Ave., White Plains, N.Y. 10604.

Children's World Learning Centers, one of the nation's largest for-profit child-care chains, now has the most centers accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

At an event last month to celebrate having more than 100 of some 500 centers accredited, company officials urged other providers to follow their lead.

N.A.E.Y.C. accreditation involves meeting quality standards through self-study and evaluation by experts.--D.C.

Vol. 13, Issue 02

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