Critiquing Of Craig Ramey's Article

Shortcomings and benefits have been identified after reading the article titled, “Persistent Effects of Early Childhood Education on high-Risk Children and their Mothers” by Craig T. Ramey. The article was written by Ramey with the intent and purpose of assessing and reporting on the long-term results and effects of the Abecedarian Project. Ramey’s article discussed the research, findings, analysis and conclusion behind the Abecedarian Project. Providing additional programs toward educational support, healthcare and family support to mothers and their children in low-come and high-risk environments proved to be advantageous in maternal employment and children’s academic careers and cognitive development. However, the research design lacked strong statistical data, entailed a narrow demographic region and contained broad objectives towards the weighted research.

The research design and results will serve as an important source for future early childhood education research studies on children in low-income and poverty-stricken households. The Abecedarian Project evaluated the effects and outcomes of providing educational support, healthcare and family support interventions on children and their mothers after developing and conducting a three-group study that was then, compared to a control group. Due to the lack of long-term research on childhood through adolescents, this study also sought to follow-up with the four groups later in life to determine the effects and outcomes at that stage. Individuals were chosen and assigned to the test and control groups at random after eligibility was confirmed/ Eligibility was confirmed through a pre-screen with the community prenatal clinic and department of social services by using a 13-factor risk index and through an in-person home assessment conducted by study evaluators before being admitted into the project. The Abecedarian Project was a formative evaluation program. Formative evaluations allow for quick revisions and can occur throughout the project.

There are multiple key research questions and hypotheses being addressed within the article. As stated earlier, the intent of this article was to identify the longevity of the outcomes and effects of the Abecedarian Project. It was hypothesized that education in early childhood would impact “multi-risk” and poorer children and their families throughout their life span in phase

In conjunction, it was hypothesized that children’s school performance would increase with the intervention treatment programs. In other words, “a positive pattern would be noted between school performance of children and the duration of the intervention program”.

It was also hypothesized that the three intervention programs would be beneficial to both the children and mothers, as their cognitive development would continue to grow and the percentage of low-income children who showed signs of mental retardation would decrease. At the same time, it was hypothesized that teenage mothers would complete a high school degree and obtain a better employment and more mothers would find employment if their children received the intervention support programs versus those mothers within the control group.

In phase two, researchers hypothesized “cognitive and academic achievement benefits should be proportional to the duration of the intervention as tested by linear trend analyses of variances”. Ramey (2000) goes on to discuss the second hypothesis in phase Ii, “regular visits by a professional educator who knew the challenges and joys of classroom teaching and had specific knowledge about the child’s classroom activities and performance would help high risk parents feel more comfortable helping their children successfully negotiate school routines and meet academic demands.” The hypothesis for the kindergarten through second grade intervention program stated that children’s social environment and learning can be changed/modified by adding supplementary intervention programs. Not only was supplementary information and guidance provided during the school year and in the child’s home life but it was also provided through-out summer break, in an attempt to not lose ground on what they had learned and increase knowledge that had been retained during the regular school year.

Six Research Questions

  1. Onset of delayed cognitive development can be delayed so as long as intervention occurs in the pre-school years. Stanford Binet IQ was used to compare the cognitive development between the control and treatment groups. The control group illustrated 40% children who fell within the “developmental retardation” range whereas only 5% of the pre-school intervention treatment group scored in this range.
  2. Children with mothers how had an IQ of 70 or below benefit the most from pre-school intervention.
  3. A positive correlation can be found with cognitive developmental learning and children who attend additional preschool programs.
  4. Improving cognitive development by increasing the response rate to social environments can increase children’s behavioral and non-biological conditions.
  5. No negative effects occurred between the mother/child relationship among the pre-school treatment groups.
  6. Teenage mothers are more likely to earn a high school diploma and post-secondary training if their children received the pre-school intervention programs.

The Abecedarian Project’s research design was a random and controlled study by the evaluator’s. Different program interventions were assigned to the randomized treatment and control group. These additional program interventions started during infancy of the child’s life development. Family support, social services, free or reduced prices for pediatric care and supplements for nutrition were provided to the control group. The control group did not receive educational support like the treatment groups. Though, different support programs were offered to each of the three treatment groups. Treatment group A received educational support assistance until the child turned five years old with an additional supplementary program beginning in Kindergarten and ending in the second grade. Treatment group B received educational support solely for the year they attended kindergarten. Treatment group C received the education intervention beginning in kindergarten through the second grade. The sample size of the study totaled 111 children, of which 57 were part of the pre-school treatment group and 54 were part of the pre-school control group. Multiple different measurement methodologies were outlined in the article that were utilized in the research.

Observation and standardized test scoring were the two most used methodologies in the Abecedarian Project. During the initial pre-screening, the prenatal clinic and department of social services used their data and records to compile the 13 Risk Factor Index. After the initial pre-screening was conducted, researchers met with the participants to ensure they met the necessary criteria for the project. Household education demographics were also compiled and clinic evaluations were performed on the mother in order to determine their IQ range. Developmental Systems Theory was used to form the pre-school support program. Ramey (2000) used the finding from the developmental systems theory to develop the Biosocial Developmental Contextualism. This methodology applied both quantitative and qualitative data to report on children’s neurological and behavioral growth. To compare and contrast participants academic performance and cognitive development at different times along the project’s life cycle, a mix of standardized tests and indexes were used.

The Baley Mental Development Index, Stanford Binet IQ and McCarthy Scales of General Cognitive Development were all used to perform developmental and cognitive tests. These tests and assessments were performed at specific ages among the participants. For example, tests were performed when infants were three months old and then, again at 18 months old. To derive the “effect sizes” of each one being tested, a statistical formula is used. Due to a new research design being implemented during phase II a new methodology was deployed, a linear trend analysis of variances and applied to all four groups.

Further analysis was conducted by comparing children enrolled in pre-school with children who were not enrolled in a pre-school program. Upon entering pre-school, the participants in the pre-school group and control group were ranked in accordance to their IQ. It is important to note that these cognitive, IQ and developmental evaluations were continuously conducted on the participants to gauge program effects and to provide additional hypothesis or determine if a new research design should be developed. This evaluation had many strengths to improve future programs and there were specific attributes of the evaluation that proved fruitful.

The Abecedarian Project proved to be beneficial for the education system, education research, early childhood psychology and counseling youth and young adults on the important of completing a high school degree and employment opportunities. Within the article, Ramey (2000) discussed the lack of research and knowledge that existed at the time this project was developed. The Abecedarian Project was instrumental in jump starting additional research and program evaluations to address these concerns. The public sector should examine the results and research behind this project when discussing education reform and determining programs to create and/or revise. The department of education in each state would reap many broad benefits from reviewing this project and more specifically, school systems that are in low-income and high-risk cities. High school and middle school guidance counselors should develop a program for the youth to encourage high school completion and pursuing a career trade. In addition, developers of this evaluation included regression analysis; which is extremely important in creating research designs to test for accuracy.

During the evaluation, researchers opted to develop a second research design to ensure better results for long-term efficacy and outcomes. While the second research design in phase II did not represent large statistical power, it provided a good start to the project and will give new studies a good place to begin new research designs and produce valid hypotheses. The biggest weaknesses in the evaluation pertain to the demographics, sample size, economy, IQ range of intervention treatment groups and the broad objectives. Inclusion of diversity was not implemented in selecting participants for the Abecedarian Project. Evaluations regarding early childhood development in low-income and high-risk environments should be conducted with a relevant proportionate sample size of ethnic groups to improve validity and confidence. Secondly, the evaluation took place in an affluent community versus a middle-class or poverty-stricken community. To enhance the validity of the project, a series of evaluations should occur in middle-class, low-income and affluent communities and then, those results can be compared and contrasted to report the best findings.

The IQ range across the pre-school treatment group and control group had a large range, decreasing the validity of the results and reducing the confidence of the overall results of the evaluation. IQ ranges should be similar when comparing and contrasting groups to a control group so that the test results are ore applicable to existing programs. Lastly, too many broad objectives were produced in the evaluation; resulting in insufficient findings. Evaluations should be clear and concise and offer results to each objective versus being ambiguous. In my opinion, this Abecedarian Project did not report sufficient findings on the impact toward mothers to be valid or conclusive. While the evaluation offers strengths in future research and evaluations, there were many weaknesses throughout the evaluation process. A broader and more diverse group of participants would have produced enhanced confidence in the studies. Too, participants in the control group and intervention test groups should reflect similar IQ scores. Results and research in the evaluation will provide a great basis for future evaluations in childhood education and education reform debates.

Open Memo to the Director of the Indiana Department of Children’s Services, It has been brought to my attention that the Indiana Department of Children’s Services is considering providing additional support programs for children and parents in low-income and high-risk environments. Together, we can enhance children’s cognitive and academic development and employment and academic education for their parents by implementing educational support, healthcare and family support programs that are similar to those outlined in the Abecedarian Project. Children and parents within the Indianapolis Public School system and Hoosiers who reside in low-income rural communities will benefit the most from these additional support programs, as they lack the funding and resources needed to stimulate education among high-risk and poor families.

After reviewing the research and results from the Abecedarian Project Evaluation, I have determined that Indiana’s low-income and high-risk youth and their parents would benefit the most from educational support beyond what is provided by school systems, lower priced or free daycare, nutritional supplements and Home School Resource Teachers. Adding educational support beyond the school system can help decrease developmental cognitive issues such as, mental retardation. Parents in high-risk and low-income communities struggle with the rising costs of higher quality child care. By offering free or low-price child care option, parents can focus more energy on better employment opportunities and education; rather than suffering stressors of how to pay for adequate childcare or their children’s safety. Food insecurity is also on the rise in Indiana, which can hinder and slow the cognitive developmental process and delay education.

Lastly, many children lose the knowledge that they learned during summer vacation. Though the use of Home School Resource Teachers, Indiana has the opportunity to help these children retain what they learned that year and be able to move into the next school year in a better place to advance their knowledge and attitude toward learning. These additional support programs will boost Hoosier children’s cognitive, behavior and academic development. Nutritional supplement programs will boost food security and promote a better learning environment for these children. Providing parents with free or reduce daycare options will help them find better employment and earn a higher education. I urge you to implement these programs to help Indiana children and their parents. Our youth is our future.

03 December 2019
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