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New research finds “Magic 8” preschool classroom practices

October 4, 2017
Lillian Mongeau
The Hechinger Report

A new study published this month in the journal Child Development, found that eight key teacher actions can make the difference between a mediocre preschool classroom and an excellent one.

A team of Vanderbilt University researchers spent two years gathering the data used to prove that these actions worked. Dale Farran, the head researcher, says the project was a direct result of the disappointing results of her previous research, a multi-year study published in 2015, which showed that Tennessee’s state preschool program had no effect or in some cases a negative effect on participants by the time they reached third grade.

“I got obsessed these past three years with ‘how do we make it better?’” said Farran, the associate director of Vanderbilt’s Peabody Research Center. “It wasn’t acceptable to me to just say, ‘We found these outcomes.’ Do you just say ‘we found these outcomes’ or do you roll up your sleeves and try to do something about it?”

Farran decided the only ethical answer was to do something about it, so she said she was thrilled when the superintendent of Nashville Public Schools approached her a few months after her initial report and asked for help improving Nashville’s program.