Reading and mathematics intervention programmes with parents of nursery children in disadvantaged areas : a psychological and methodological study
Theoretical models of early educational attainment are explored and the limitations of some current theories are discussed. Many of the more important intervention progres aimed at helping disadvantaged pre-school children in Britain and the United States are reviewed and alternative interpretations of some of their findings are proposed. A progre of intervention, based on the parents of 159 nursery children at inner city primary schools, has been carried out for the study and is described here in detail. Various methodological issues are examined in relation to the study's goal of improving the reading or mathematical attainment of these children, when assessed near the end of reception class. The nature of the intervention prograe, which has taken the form of eight fortnightly meetings for each of 25 groups of parents, is set out in full. New forms of quantitative indices are developed to define the nomological validities of the individual variables and of the multivariate evaluation models. The study also reports the practical development of a new form of non-stochastic ridge regression, named V-ridge in recognition of the imerican statistician (ED. Vinod) who created the original algorithm; it is shown here that this method offers regression coefficients which are far more stable across samples, and often more credible, than are the equivalent ordinary least squarei coefficients. Ten path analysis models based on the study data yield a wealth of insights. The models show, inter alia: major differences in the contribution of home environments to the educational attainment of advantaged and disadvantaged children; the importance of the nursery school experience for disadvantaged children; the significant though modest contributions of the parent intervention prograame to the outcomes of reading competence and mathematical concepts, but not to the outcome of mathematical nwneracy; and the stronger integration of cognitive and academic characteristics in advantaged children than in their disadvantaged peers. The major conclusion is that a nursery class programne of parent guidance, structured and focused on the presentation of practical activities enabling parents to foster children's early reading and early mathematical development within the home, is effective and should be a regular feature of nursery education in disadvantaged areas.