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Preschoolers' language skills improve more when they're placed with more-skilled peers
Date:10/25/2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio Preschool children with relatively poor language skills improve more if they are placed in classrooms with high-achieving students, a new study found.

Researchers found that children with relatively poor language skills either didn't improve over the course of one academic year, or actually lost ground in development of language skills, when they were placed with other low-achieving students.

The results have important implications because many preschool programs in the United States are targeted to children in poverty, who may exhibit lags in their development of language skills, said Laura Justice, lead author of the study and professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Ohio State University.

"The way preschool works in the United States, we tend to cluster kids who have relatively low language skills in the same classrooms, and that is not good for their language development," Justice said.

"We need to pay more attention to the composition of preschool classrooms."

Justice conducted the study with Yaacov Petscher and Christopher Schatschneider of Florida State University and Andrew Mashburn of the University of Virginia. Their findings appear in the new issue of the journal Child Development.

More than 80 percent of American children participate in preschool, Justice said. About half of these children attend preschool programs that are subsidized through state and/or federal dollars, the majority of which only enroll children in poverty.

Because children in poverty face increased risk for poor language skills, that means kids with low skills are often clustered together, she said.

The study involved 338 children enrolled in 49 preschool classrooms. The children completed a variety of standardized measures of their language skills in the fall of the academic year. The measures were repeated in the spring, giving the researchers a test of their improvement
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Contact: Laura Justice
ljustice@ehe.osu.edu
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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