A new study has found that it may be possible, and not too difficult, to help low-income children significantly speed up their vocabulary acquisition in kindergarten. This is important because of the oft-cited 1995 study which found that low-income children know about 5,000 words before entering kindergarten, compared to 20,000 words for high-income children. This difference is one of the main roots of the achievement gap.
The Mississippi study may offer schools and teachers some guidance in how to improve early education outcomes, which are varied. The study found that the boost in vocabulary among children in the Mississippi program was equal to a month of extra time in school. Here’s what one of the researchers told Ed Week:
Pam Finney, the research management leader for the study, said the program was purposely “not a very complicated intervention,” and it helps teachers engage in the same complex conversations that the Kansas study showed professional parents have with their children, “introducing 50 cent words as opposed to 25 cent words,” as Ms. Finney put it.
The Ed Week author asks whether “a one-month edge be enough to boost these students reading development, get them moved to more advanced groups, and so on? ” I have a similar question. Is a month enough to help these children catch up to their high income peers? If not, what else needs to be done to close that gap?