Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The preschool achievement gap: Are variations in teacher input associated with differences in number knowledge?
by Ehrlich, Stacy Brooke, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2007, 131; 3252255
Abstract (Summary)

In recent years, increased attention has been focused on the quality of preschool education. Studies indicate that early input may have strong effects on developmental outcomes, particularly for low-income children. While preschool research during the past decade has focused on how to increase children's literacy skills, the early years are just as important for fostering children's math readiness skills. The present study examines which factors contribute to children's growing math knowledge during these early years. Specifically how much, and in which ways, do teachers talk about number in preschool classrooms that serve low- and middle-income children?

Seventeen classrooms in the Chicago area participated---8 tuition-based (TB) and 9 Head Start (HS) classrooms. The Test of Early Mathematics Abilities (TEMA-3) and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-III; as a control measure) were administered to children at the beginning and end of the school year. Teachers were video taped on two occasions during circle time, and classroom environments were measured (using the ECERS-R). Teacher speech was examined for the frequency of number words, and each number word or elicitation of a number word was coded based on a number concept category scheme. Parent and teacher questionnaires were also administered.

HS students performed significantly worse than TB students on the TEMA-3 and PPVT-III at both pretest and post test; however, the rate of improvement was similar for the two groups of children (although HS children grew slightly more on the PPVT-III). Variations did exist in how much each classroom improved on the TEMA-3, justifying an examination of teacher input in each classroom and its relation to student growth.

Teachers in HS and TB classrooms talked about, and elicited, number concepts at similar rates. However, teachers whose students improved on the TEMA-3 talked significantly more and elicited more about number concepts than did teachers whose students worsened on the TEMA3. Hierarchical linear modeling confirmed that, within this sample, teacher input ("talk" about number) was significantly related to differences in TEMA-3 growth over the preschool year (regardless of preschool program), while classroom environment, home math activities, and program (SES) were not.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Levine, Susan C.
School: The University of Chicago
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 68/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mathematics education, Preschool education, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Achievement gap, Head Start, Number knowledge, Preschool, Teacher input
Publication Number: 3252255
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