Connecting the dots between handwriting and high scores
February 3rd, 2012
07:35 AM ET

Connecting the dots between handwriting and high scores

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Penmanship. To grown-ups, the word conjures up memories of coarse sheets of paper with solid and dotted lines - and a pencil so big that you had to practically balance it on your shoulder to practice writing your letters.

For some of today’s elementary school kids, there won’t be any memories of penmanship class.  With classroom time at a premium and the common use of the keyboard, some school districts are abandoning handwriting as part of the curriculum.

But Dr. Laura Dinehart says not so fast.

Dinehart, an assistant professor at the Florida International University School of Education, was examining data collected on 1,000 second-graders and comparing it with information collected when they were in pre-kindergarten.  She and her research team expected to find that early number skills might predict math achievement and that early language skills might predict who would be better readers in second grade.  But they were surprised to find that a 4-year-old’s fine motor writing skill - the ability to form letters, numbers and shapes - was an indicator of stronger academic achievement later on.

What’s just as surprising, says Dinehart, is that the academic achievement by those with better penmanship is seen in both reading and math, and it’s reflected in both teachers’ grades and standardized test scores.  Students who received good handwriting grades in pre-K had an overall “B” average in second grade.  Their standardized tests scored above average in both math and reading.  By contrast, pre-kindergarten students who did poorly on fine motor writing tasks had an overall “C” average and below-average test scores in second grade.

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Filed under: At Home • Early childhood education • Policy • Practice
January 5th, 2012
11:07 AM ET

Playtime for preschoolers essential, study says

(CNN) – Preschoolers in child care centers aren't spending enough time playing outdoors and just being kids, according to a new study published in this week's Pediatrics journal.

Three quarters of American children ages 3 to 5 are in child care and, like most kids, they need to be more physically active, say researchers. But children who aren't in day care may also lack enough active time outside.

"Daily physical activity is essential for preschool age children both for preventing obesity and for their development – their physical development and their cognitive development," says study author Dr. Kristen Copeland from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.

Dr. Copeland and her team of researchers wanted to find out why children weren't more active so they talked to the staff at 34 child care facilities in Cincinnati. They discovered that centers often emphasized classroom learning at the expense of outdoor playtime. Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics say this is not limited to Cincinnati, but occurs in many parts of the country as well.

December 16th, 2011
04:23 PM ET

Nine states win big in early childhood education

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Today the White House announced that nine states – California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington – will each receive a portion of $500 million awarded in the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.

Thirty-five states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico submitted proposals in the competition, outlining their plans to increase access to high-quality, early childhood education for low-income families. According to the Department of Education, the number and list of winners were determined by both the quality of applications and the funds available.  Each of the winning nine states will receive a different grant, depending on state population and proposals.

According to Jon Schnur, executive chairman and co-founder of America Achieves, the winning plans focus not only on academic outcomes, but on social and other skills important to early childhood education and development.  Schnur points out that this is a “watershed moment” because the states are acting on evidence of quality learning practices and their proposals were the result of bipartisan planning and action.

Professor Sharon Lynn Kagan, co-director of the National Center for Children and Families at Teachers College, Columbia University, says this was an incredible competition with high quality submissions. She cites the announcement today as “extremely significant” because “it says that early learning is important.”

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Filed under: Early childhood education • Policy • Practice • Race to the Top
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