Journal Issue: Long-Term Outcomes Of Early Childhood Programs Volume 5 Number 3 Winter 1995
Doris R. Entwistle
Explaining Preschool Effects
Some reviewers have speculated about mechanisms that could turn short-term preschool benefits into long-term success and adaptation. For example, one review of studies showing long-term benefits from preschool suggests that attention should be focused not so much on variables like IQ which are designed to measure permanent changes in the child's psychological functioning but, instead, on short-term improvements that could change the child's ability to function in school.7 Indeed, the pattern of outcomes found in the longitudinal evaluations of preschooling suggests that the positive long-term effects came about mainly because preschooled children had different experiences in elementary school.
This article examines two paths by which the short-term effects of preschool on children could change the social context of school entry and, thereby, affect children's academic success. One path is by enhancing children's cognitive abilities in a way that eases the transition into school and reduces the likelihood that they will be tracked into low ability groups, placed in special education, or retained in grade. Another path is by inducing both parents and teachers to have positive expectations for the child's performance and so to encourage and support the child's academic efforts. Before examining how these paths may transmit the effects of preschool programs, the general nature of children's early school experience and research on parent, teacher, and peer influences will be briefly reviewed.