One of my first jobs in college was for a university extension service where I wrote short summaries of theses and research for extension staff in the field. I was reminded of this when the Journal of Primary Prevention published a study by Zigler, Pfannenstiel and Seitz: “The Parents as Teachers Program and School Success: A Replication and Extension.”
Three things immediately jumped out at me.
First, replication of results is the ultimate criterion for success. The fact that this study was able to replicate the positive results of an early study means the results are no fluke!
Secondly, the most important predictor of how well a child will do in third-grade is how ready he is for school when he enters kindergarten. But why worry about third grade? Because it serves as a sort of ‘marker’ for children: being a competent reader by third grade is one key indicator of academic success. Kids who do well in the early grades are more likely to graduate and, yes, go on to be successful in life. School readiness at kindergarten entry far outweighs other factors, such as age, gender, minority status—even poverty—in predicting third grade achievement. Do parents know this?!
Finally, Parents as Teachers was able to improve not only the school readiness of children in poverty but also of nonpoverty children. In other words, it worked for everyone! And while nothing will eliminate the so-called ‘achievement gap,’ Parents as Teachers participation sure came close.
So how do you get children to this level of school readiness? That’s what this study shows: Parents as Teachers improves school readiness not only through better parenting practices, but by also getting parents to read more to their children and by entrolling them in some sort of preschool program (both things that also increase school readiness).
This is ‘must-have’ information for all parents and ‘must act on’ information for policy-makers.