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Study: N.J.'s Abbott preschool program working

apple052809jpg_optA new study on the effects of preschool finds that children who attended preschool education program in New Jersey's mainly state-funded 31 urban schools outperformed their peers in first and second grades, and children who had two years of preschool rather than just one had double the advantages, Gov. Jon Corzine said Monday.

The study, "The APPLES Blossom: Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study Results through 2nd Grade," was conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University.

Authored by Ellen Frede, Kwanghee Jung, Steven Barnett, and Alexandra Figueras. The study followed children who had participated in so-called Abbott district preschools through second grade.

"High-quality preschool is a proven success here in New Jersey. The latest APPLES study reconfirms what teachers, parents and advocates have witnessed for years: New Jersey's high-quality preschool system produces positive results and better prepares children for elementary school," Corzine said during a visit to an early childhood education center in Union City school.

"Providing a curriculum-based preschool program to at-risk children ignites their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and sets them on the right educational path from the beginning."

The study finds preschool children perform better in oral language and conceptual knowledge, reading skills and mathematics. Grade retention was cut in half.

Preschool classroom quality has been assessed in the Abbott districts almost annually since the program started. This year, researchers at William Patterson University conducted the assessment for the state Department of Education and reported a rise in classroom quality.

The average Abbott classroom scored better than "good" and most programs were in the "good-to-excellent" range.

The Abbott preschool programs were developed as a result of Abbott v. Burke lawsuit in which the state Supreme Court established basic program standards for preschool education in the Abbott districts that included a maximum class size of 15, certified teachers with early childhood expertise, assistant teachers in every classroom, comprehensive services, and a developmentally appropriate curriculum designed to meet learning standards.

Enrollment in the Abbott preschool program has increased dramatically since its inception in 1999. During the 2008-09 school year, the 10th year of Abbott preschool implementation, the 31 Abbott districts served over 43,000 3- and 4-year-old children in preschool, about 80 percent of all eligible students.

The preschool program is provided through a mixed public-private delivery system overseen by the public schools. Private childcare providers and Head Start agencies contract with local boards of education to serve about two-thirds of the children. The remaining students are served in public school classrooms.

The full APPLES report can be found at NIEER.org. A PDF version can be downloaded here.

– TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

 

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