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Day-Care-Entrance Varies Widely by Region

Parents living in the Western and Northeastern United States enroll their children in day care at much older ages than Southern families do, a study has found.

In the first nationwide evaluation of the age at which infants and toddlers enter day care outside the home, researchers at the Harvard University graduate school of education and the University of California, Berkeley, found that children in the South enter day care, on average, at the age of 20 months, while a child starts day care at the age of 43 months in the West and Northeast. Where people live and their relative affluence all determine their chances of locating stable day care, said Judith Singer, a professor at Harvard and a co-author of the study, which is based on data collected from more than 4,000 parents in 1991.

The South, for instance, has disproportionately more poor families in which the mother must re-enter the workforce for financial reasons and use day care.

The study also found that college-educated mothers were far more likely to use child care than high school graduates. But women who bear a child at age 30, regardless of education level or marital status, are three times more likely to stay at home with the preschool-aged child than a woman who has a baby at 20.

Overall, the study found that one-fourth of all children enter day care before they turn 6 months. By their 3rd birthdays, more than half of all American children are in child care for at least 20 hours a week.

"Early Child Care Selection: Variation by Geographic Location, Maternal Characteristics, and Family Structure," $3, plus mailing costs, from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Larsen Hall, 7th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138; or can be downloaded from the World Wide Web at:

New American Schools

Districts play a critical role in determining whether schools can successfully adopt "whole-school designs" that change everything from how classrooms are organized to how reading is taught, according to a recent study.

The report, by the RAND Corp., a nonprofit research group based in Santa Monica, Calif., summarizes the evolution of the New American Schools initiative since its inception in 1991 and lessons learned.

AS, a private, nonprofit group based in Arlington, Va., works to improve student learning by encouraging schools to adopt one of seven whole-school designs. Since March 1995, NAS has been working with a few states and districts that have agreed to adopt the designs in at least 30 percent of their schools by 2000.

For the designs to work, the report says, districts must:

  • Make such designs a cornerstone of their reform efforts;
  • Reallocate resources to schools to support such designs;
  • Devote the time and effort to help schools make an informed choice between designs;
  • Grant individual schools the authority to implement the design;
  • Ensure that state and district tests and accountability systems do not conflict with the designs; and
  • Create professional-development practices that support design-based assistance to schools.

The report also examines the potential contribution of whole-school designs to education reform and the future of the NAS's work.

"New American Schools After Six Years," $15, from RAND, 1700 Main St., PO Box 2138, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138; (310) 451-7002. Cite number MR-945-NAS.

Teaching Thinking

In a well-meaning rush to cram students' heads with information, teachers all too often slight the very act that engenders education: thinking. That reality, argue authors of a newly published set of articles, remains despite renewed calls to work toward "higher-order thinking skills" and recent intense interest in brain development and the varieties of intelligence.

The latest Clearing House, a journal devoted to issues affecting adolescent students, offers articles that translate research on thinking into classroom applications for secondary school teachers.

Throughout the articles, the authors--academics and researchers --discuss barriers to developing students' thinking ability; ways to cultivate reasoning, judgment, and inquiry; and connections between thinking and the curriculum.

"Teaching Thinking in the Secondary School," The Clearing House, Vol. 71, No. 5 (May/June 1998), $9.75 each, from Heldref Publications, 1319 18th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036-1802; (800) 365-9753.

Parent-Child Communication

Most parents and their middle-school-age children spend less than an hour a day talking to each other, a survey of parents and students has found.

The survey also suggests that many parents underestimate what is important to their children. For example, the parents responding said the top priorities for their youngsters are having fun, friends, and good looks. In contrast, the middle schoolers said their top priorities are their futures, schoolwork, and family matters.

The findings, released by Philips Consumer Communications, a company that designs, manufactures, and markets a range of personal communication products, are based on a survey of more than 500 students in grades 5-8 and their parents. The findings are contained in a guide for families.

"Let's Connect: Family Communication Guide," free, by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Philips Consumer Communications, PO Box 7615, Melville, NY 11775-7615. It is also available on the Web at:

Community Schools

Full-service community schools are proliferating all over the country, a report says, so much so that their numbers are hard to keep up with.

The report was funded by the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund and written by the National Center for Schools and Communities, an interdisciplinary organization within the Fordham University graduate schools of social service and education.

It defines the full-service community school, provides a compilation of the various models, and examines the potential effectiveness of community schools.

"A Look at Community Schools in 1998: Occasional Paper #2," free but limited copies, from the National Center for Schools and Communities, Fordham University, 33 W. 60th St., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10023.

Vol. 17, Issue 36, Page 12

Published in Print: May 20, 1998, as Report Roundup
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