Early Years

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Communication: Meeting with parents during traditional "open house" events--usually scheduled a month or two after the beginning of the academic year--might be too late to help some kindergartners make a successful transition into school.

Early communication between home and school, beginning as close to the start of the school year as possible, could greatly improve a child's chances of doing well in class, say researchers at the National Center for Early Development and Learning, based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The center recently surveyed nearly 3,600 kindergarten teachers nationwide and found that 48 percent of pupils encounter problems in their first year of school that could pose greater difficulties for them in later years.

The researchers also found that one-on-one meetings with parents, rather than group orientations, give teachers more information about individual children, their interests, talents, and any challenges they might face in the classroom.

Many of the teachers surveyed, however, noted that it's difficult to schedule early parent conferences because class lists usually are not ready until a couple of weeks before school begins. And even if the lists were ready earlier, most teachers couldn't do anything because they don't work in the summer months.

The researchers also found that home visits between teachers and parents are rare; letters and open-house activities are the most common methods of welcoming new students and communicating with parents.

Hispanic Preschoolers: Home-based education programs are an effective tool for preparing Hispanic preschoolers for the classroom, according to a study of low-income, Spanish-speaking mothers and children in San Francisco.

The researcher, Linda Espinosa, an associate professor of education at the University of Missouri-Columbia, found that mothers and children who participated in a weekly home visit with a bilingual parent educator talked to each other more than those who didn't take part in the program. Parents in the program, Family Focus for School Success, were also more supportive of their children and less disapproving, a quality that has been shown to improve a child's chances of doing well in school, Ms. Espinosa found.

Because of the low achievement scores and high dropout rates of Hispanic students, she recommends that similar programs be established in communities with a large number of Hispanic families.


Vol. 18, Issue 1, Page 17

Published in Print: September 9, 1998, as Early Years

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