Early Intervention Can Improve Low-Income Children’s Cognitive Skills and Academic Achievement

National Head Start program conceptualized while psychologists were beginning to study preventive intervention for young children living in poverty.
As a group, children who live in poverty tend to perform worse in school than do children from more privileged backgrounds. For the first half of the 20th century, researchers attributed this difference to inherent cognitive deficits. At the time, the prevailing belief was that the course of child development was dictated by biology and maturation. By the early 1960s, this position gave way to the notion popularized by psychologists such as J. McVicker Hunt and Benjamin Bloom that intelligence could rather easily be shaped by the environment. There was very little research at the time to support these speculations but a few psychologists had begun to study whether environmental manipulation could prevent poor cognitive outcomes. Results of studies by psychologists Susan Gray and Rupert Klaus (1965), Martin Deutsch (1965) and Bettye Caldwell and former U.S. Surgeon General Julius Richmond (1968) supported the notion that early attention to physical and psychological development could improve cognitive ability.

These preliminary results caught the attention of Sargent Shriver, President Lyndon Johnson’s chief strategist in implementing an arsenal of antipoverty programs as part of the War on Poverty. His idea for a school readiness program for children of the poor focused on breaking the cycle of poverty. Shriver reasoned that if poor children could begin school on an equal footing with wealthier classmates, they would have a better of chance of succeeding in school and avoiding poverty in adulthood. He appointed a planning committee of 13 professionals in physical and mental health, early education, social work, and developmental psychology. Their work helped shape what is now known as the federal Head Start program.

The three developmental psychologists in the group were Urie Bronfenbrenner, Mamie Clark, and Edward Zigler. Bronfenbrenner convinced the other members that intervention would be most effective if it involved not just the child but the family and community that comprise the child-rearing environment. Parent involvement in school operations and administration were unheard of at the time, but it became a cornerstone of Head Start and proved to be a major contributor to its success. Zigler had been trained as a scientist and was distressed that the new program was not going to be field-tested before its nationwide launch. Arguing that it was not wise to base such a massive, innovative program on good ideas and concepts but little empirical evidence, he insisted that research and evaluation be part of Head Start. When he later became the federal official responsible for administering the program, Zigler (often referred to as the “father of Head Start”) worked to cast Head Start as a national laboratory for the design of effective early childhood services.

Although it is difficult to summarize the hundreds of empirical studies of Head Start outcomes, Head Start does seem to produce a variety of benefits for most children who participate. Although some studies have suggested that the intellectual advantages gained from participation in Head Start gradually disappear as children progress through elementary school, some of these same studies have shown more lasting benefits in the areas of school achievement and adjustment.
Practical Application

Head Start began as a great experiment that over the years has yielded prolific results. Some 20 million children and families have participated in Head Start since the summer of 1965; current enrollment approaches one million annually, including those in the new Early Head Start that serves families with children from birth to age 3. Psychological research on early intervention has proliferated, creating an expansive literature and sound knowledge base. Many research ideas designed and tested in the Head Start laboratory have been adapted in a variety of service delivery programs. These include family support services, home visiting, a credentialing process for early childhood workers, and education for parenthood. Head Start’s efforts in preschool education spotlighted the value of school readiness and helped spur today’s movement toward universal preschool.

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Family-Like Environment Better for Troubled Children and Teens

The Teaching-Family Model changes bad behavior through straight talk and loving relationships.

In the late 1960′s, psychologists Elaine Phillips, Elery Phillips, Dean Fixsen, and Montrose Wolf developed an empirically tested treatment program to help troubled children and juvenile offenders who had been assigned to residential group homes. These researchers combined the successful components of their studies into the Teaching-Family Model, which offers a structured treatment regimen in a family-like environment. The model is built around a married couple (teaching-parents) that lives with children in a group home and teaches them essential interpersonal and living skills. Not only have teaching parents’ behaviors and techniques been assessed for their effectiveness, but they have also been empirically tested for whether children like them. Teaching-parents also work with the children’s parents, teachers, employers, and peers to ensure support for the children’s positive changes. Although more research is needed, preliminary results suggest that, compared to children in other residential treatment programs, children in Teaching-Family Model centers have fewer contacts with police and courts, lower dropout rates, and improved school grades and attendance.

Couples are selected to be teaching-parents based on their ability to provide individualized and affirming care. Teaching-parents then undergo an intensive year-long training process. In order to maintain their certification, teaching-parents and Teaching-Family Model organizations are evaluated every year, and must meet the rigorous standards set by the Teaching-Family Association.
The Teaching-Family Model is one of the few evidence-based residential treatment programs for troubled children. In the past, many treatment programs viewed delinquency as an illness, and therefore placed children in institutions for medical treatment. The Teaching-Family Model, in contrast, views children’s behavior problems as stemming from their lack of essential interpersonal relationships and skills. Accordingly, the Teaching-Family Model provides children with these relationships and teaches them these skills, using empirically validated methods. With its novel view of problem behavior and its carefully tested and disseminated treatment program, the Teaching-Family Model has helped to transform the treatment of behavioral problems from impersonal interventions at large institutions to caring relationships in home and community settings. The Teaching-Family Model has also demonstrated how well-researched treatment programs can be implemented on a large scale. Most importantly, the Teaching-Family Model has given hope that young people with even the most difficult problems or behaviors can improve the quality of their lives and make contributions to society.
Practical Application
In recent years, the Teaching-Family Model has been expanded to include foster care facilities, home treatment settings, and even schools. The Teaching-Family Model has also been adapted to accommodate the needs of physically, emotionally, and sexually abused children; emotionally disturbed and autistic children and adults; medically fragile children; and adults with disabilities. Successful centers that have been active for over 30 years include the Bringing it All Back Home Study Center in North Carolina, the Houston Achievement Place in Texas, and the Girls and Boys Town in Nebraska. Other Teaching-Family Model organizations are in Alberta (Canada), Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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Believing You Can Get Smarter Makes You Smarter

Thinking about intelligence as changeable and malleable, rather than stable and fixed, results in greater academic achievement, especially for people whose groups bear the burden of negative stereotypes about their intelligence.

Can people get smarter? Are some racial or social groups smarter than others? Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, many people believe that intelligence is fixed, and, moreover, that some racial and social groups are inherently smarter than others. Merely evoking these stereotypes about the intellectual inferiority of these groups (such as women and Blacks) is enough to harm the academic perfomance of members of these groups. Social psychologist Claude Steele and his collaborators (2002) have called this phenomenon “stereotype threat.”

Yet social psychologists Aronson, Fried, and Good (2001) have developed a possible antidote to stereotype threat. They taught African American and European American college students to think of intelligence as changeable, rather than fixed – a lesson that many psychological studies suggests is true. Students in a control group did not receive this message. Those students who learned about IQ’s malleability improved their grades more than did students who did not receive this message, and also saw academics as more important than did students in the control group. Even more exciting was the finding that Black students benefited more from learning about the malleable nature of intelligence than did White students, showing that this intervention may successfully counteract stereotype threat.

This research showed a relatively easy way to narrow the Black-White academic achievement gap. Realizing that one’s intelligence may be improved may actually improve one’s intelligence, especially for those whose groups are targets of stereotypes alleging limited intelligence (e.g., Blacks, Latinos, and women in math domains.)
Practical Application

Blackwell, Dweck, and Trzesniewski (2002) recently replicated and applied this research with seventh-grade students in New York City. During the first eight weeks of the spring term, these students learned about the malleability of intelligence by reading and discussing a science-based article that described how intelligence develops. A control group of seventh-grade students did not learn about intelligence’s changeability, and instead learned about memory and mnemonic strategies. As compared to the control group, students who learned about intelligence’s malleability had higher academic motivation, better academic behavior, and better grades in mathematics. Indeed, students who were members of vulnerable groups (e.g., those who previously thought that intelligence cannot change, those who had low prior mathematics achievement, and female students) had higher mathematics grades following the intelligence-is-malleable intervention, while the grades of similar students in the control group declined. In fact, girls who received the intervention matched and even slightly exceeded the boys in math grades, whereas girls in the control group performed well below the boys.

These findings are especially important because the actual instruction time for the intervention totaled just three hours. Therefore, this is a very cost-effective method for improving students’ academic motivation and achievement.
Cited Research

Aronson, J., Fried, C. B., & Good, C. (2001). Reducing the effects of stereotype threat on African American college students by shaping theories of intelligence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1-13.

Steele, C. M., Spencer, S. J., & Aronson, J. (2002), Contending with group image: The psychology of stereotype and social identity threat. In Mark P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 34, pp. 379-440. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.
Additional Sources

Blackwell, L., Dweck, C., & Trzesniewski, K. (2002). Achievement across the adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Manuscript in preparation.

Dweck, C., & Leggett, E. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256-273.

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Fashion Week Fall of 2012 of New York

Fashion week is all about giving to women the best and hottest in fashion and clothing trends. And it’s not just happening in the United States but in every other fashion capital in the world – London, Paris, Rome, Berlin. You name a hip city and there’s sure to be a major event like this one that’s happening there. However, it must be said that there’s nothing like the New York Fashion Week, where everything about style and fashion will be seen in its fall 2012 runway. And what great is that it’s happening at the best time of the year – the fall season.

Best Designers

This major fashion clothing event is all about showcasing what’s hip, cool, and trendy for the fall 2012 season. Hence, New York was crowded with some of the most well-known and fashion-forward designers, such as Monique Lhullier, Calvin Klein and Badgley Mishka, among many other celebrity dressers. All of them presented their fashion wear, which are sure to be the hottest trends for women to follow this fall of 2012.

Let’s list them some of the dominant designs and styles that were paraded in NY fashion week’s runways:

Floral prints

Floral prints are part of the feminine look that showed the way during the New York’s fall runway show. And for this, floral is sure to dominate the fall season. Flower print on pastel is what’s currently “in,” – a sure hit among the more feminine ladies.

Pencil Skirts

Pencil skirts, because of their versatility, have always been a staple not just during fall season, but all throughout the year. You will never go wrong with pencil skirts as you can literally top them with whatever might come into your mind. Definitely, these clothes are some of the coolest that you can add into your closet. Even a simple white shirt or blouse will match perfectly with a pencil skirt, with you looking a sure winner.

Still another trend that’s all the rage during the fashion week is a block color dress. Definitely, you must try this popular clothing trend during this fall season. Very versatile, you can have a dress that presents a unique look of tri-colors and will make you, every inch, a head-turner.

This New York Fashion Week was certainly a huge hit among women who want to see the best that this most popular fall 2012 runway in New York can present. Many were indeed happy that such trends are actually about dresses that are fun, exciting, and easy to wear this season.

Now that the runway show has end, ladies now rush to their PCs to have a better scrutiny of the lovely fall designs. And they are sure to find a few that suits their taste and hopefully they themselves will don this fall of 2012.

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Herefordshire – An Idyllic Place for Garden Lovers

Garden lovers love Herefordshire. It’s the perfect place to meander around some of the most enchanting gardens in England.

The county, with its collage of meadows, fields and woodland, has a favourable climate and unspoiled landscape, making it a favourite area in which to choose a holiday cottage. To take full advantage of Herefordshire’s peace and quiet, here are some tranquil gardens open to the public that would complete your stay.

Stockton Bury is in Kimbolton, near Leominster and has an abundance of charm in every season. It’s a working farm that has been developed over several decades to become one of the UK’s best-loved gardens and sits among some of Herefordshire’s most prized unspoilt countryside. Set around medieval farm buildings, and with many rare and unusual plants, it covers around four acres in total.

The gardens are divided into themed areas that include The Grotto, Elizabethan Gardens, the Secret Garden, the Long Walk and Dingle Gardens among others. There’s also a working kitchen garden, pigeon house, pools, cider press, a mock ruined chapel and a tithe barn. The Tithe Barn Restaurant serves up traditional farmhouse fare (vegetarian too) using produce from the kitchen garden and farm along with other locally sourced ingredients.

Bryan’s Ground Gardens is in Letchmoor Lane, Stapleton, Presteigne, which is on the border with Wales. The gardens here have colour-themed borders, formal pools and follies in a beautiful Edwardian setting. These outstandingly lovely gardens integrate some awe-inspiring designs, which are the work of professional garden designers, and the publishers of the garden journal HORTUS.

The gardens themselves cover around three acres and they’re further set in twenty-five acres of river meadows, which offer stunning views to Wales. Divided into a series of ‘rooms’ which were begun in 1913, Bryan’s Ground offers visitors follies called ‘The Sulking House’ (complete with its own gothic garden), ‘The Lighthouse’, and ‘The Belvedere’. No one could fail to be delighted with the scented flowers, the topiary and the rose gardens.

Abbey Dore Court Garden is also well worth a visit. About 12 miles from Hereford city and sitting at the south end of the Golden Valley, it’s open from early spring until autumn. Laid out over six acres, it also boasts a one-acre walled garden with no fewer than nine borders separated by brick pathways, arches and a water sculpture.

If you’re visiting Abbey Dore Gardens, you’ll want to walk the riverside arboretum – there are plenty of seats supplied – the owners encourage you to sit and enjoy the peaceful setting. The Court gardens are close to the famous mid-12th century Cistercian Abbey so lots to look around if you’re in the area.

Westonbury Mill Water Gardens are close to the half-timbered village of Pembridge. It covers over three acres and contains ponds, a corn mill and a variety of interesting follies. The follies provide some light relief. One of them, a dome-roofed fernery, is fashioned from sunlit wine bottles and another, a castellated tower, has gargoyles that spurt jets of water.

As you might expect from its name, the Water Gardens specialise in water-loving plants and there are paths over the bog garden area to allow visitors to view the plants properly. The unusual African summerhouse incorporates bull rushes from the pond and is a good spot in which to view the wild flower meadow. The café serves home-cooked food and teas or you can sit beside the stream and take in the lovely view across the meadow to the hills.

A stay in Herefordshire wouldn’t be complete without visiting one of its delightfully peaceful gardens, many of which have specialist nurseries. Take something home for a lasting reminder of your garden visit to the county.

Choose your ideal holiday cottage at Herefordshire Cottages.

For more information on places in Herefordshire, follow the link in the resource box below.

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