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October 1, 1998
Vol. 56
No. 2


Preschool Sample Questioned

"Why Curriculum Matters in Early Childhood Education" by Lawrence J. Schweinhart and David B. Weikart (March 1998) was bizarre. Without holding constant any factors other than the type of preschool, such as urban/rural residence, school drop-out rates, literacy, or drug use, the researchers reported that preschool experiences could explain differences among students at age 23. Give me a break!
Preschool may well be important to later school performance, but using a sample size of 68 with nothing held constant isn't the way to find out any-thing, let alone what type of preschool has the best effect on performance.
—Alexandra Hopkins, Curriculum Writer, North Hollywood, California
Schweinhart and Weikart reply: For this longitudinal study begun in 1967, the children were randomly assigned to the groups, which is the only way to meet the assumptions of most statistical analyses. The resultant groups were not significantly different on most background variables. We statistically controlled for the two on which they did differ.

Preschool Methodology Questioned

"Why Curriculum Matters in Early Childhood Education" raises a question about how Educational Leadership validates the research it reports. Schweinhart and Weikart cite research that is inconsistent with other studies on Direct Instruction and on delinquency and even with previous research of the authors. Direct Instruction is an important instructional tool that has been field-tested and relatively well studied.
Every social discipline has reported that ignorance, not any method of instruction, is a prime cause of delinquency. In independent studies over 25 years, Direct Instruction has been shown to be an effective and superior instructional program, especially for children in historically undereducated groups.
For the children we teach to succeed, we must base our approach to education on reasonably solid research findings.
—Muriel V. Berkeley, Director, Baltimore Curriculum Project, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland
Schweinhart and Weikart reply: Direct Instruction (DI) has not been assessed with experimental designs based on random assignment to groups or examined in terms of its effects on emotional disturbance and crime. One project, using quasi-experimental designs, appeared to demonstrate short-term improvements in achievement test scores, as did all three curriculum models in our study. We encourage DI researchers to study further the social consequences of DI.

Foxfire Update

I was pleased to see Foxfire included in "Models of Reform: A Comparative Guide" (April 1998) by Margaret Wang,
Geneva Haertel, and Herbert Walberg. Providing information on diverse approaches creates the possibility of conversation among those who plan for change in schools. This information is vital to the development of the informedchoices necessary to build strong, sustainable, site-appropriate change.
To make the greatest contribution to educators' decisions, we would like to supply the most current information about Foxfire. Our programs and services have grown and developed since the 1992 citation used in the article. I encourage readers to contact us directly to receive current, full descriptions of the Foxfire approach.
—Bobby Ann Starnes, President, Foxfire Fund, Inc., P.O. Box 541, Mountain City, GA 30562-0541

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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