Two pieces of commentary that folks may find to be quite interesting.  They
are of interest given Tom's outstanding work over the years in adult
literacy and workplace literacy work.

>From: Thomas Sticht <[log in to unmask]>
>Research Note 10/19/99
>Could An Ounce Of Cure Be Worth A Pound Of Prevention?
>The "Fade Out" of Literacy in the Perry Preschool Children at Age 19
>Thomas G. Sticht
> Applied Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences, Inc.
>Findings of national adult literacy surveys over the last thirty years
>have revealed tens of millions of adults whose literacy skills are
>poorly developed. The minor  approach to remedying this problem at the
>national level has been to provide a small amount of federal money, less
>than $400,000,000 in 1999, to "cure" the problem through adult literacy
>But the major strategy has followed the homily that "an ounce of
>prevention is worth a pound of cure." So we have tried to  "prevent" the
>problem of poor adult literacy over the long run by improving  the
>literacy skills of children in the K-12 school system. This has included
>the present federal spending of some $7,000,000,000 on Title I
>compensatory education. But because this has proven a costly and not
>entirely satisfactorily program, it has been argued that Title I is too
>late, and that we need to improve children's learning before they get to
>school. So we presently invest  close to $4,000,000,000 in Head Start
>preschool programs. But since this has been found to not produce the
>hoped for long term improvements in learning, it has recently been
>argued that age 3  is too late, we need to start with birth. So now we
>have committed billions of dollars to Early Head Start for children from
>birth to age three years.  In short, what we have done is to spend "a
>pound on prevention and an ounce on cure."
>But now there is some evidence that our investment strategy  in
>preschool education may not produce the desired results, that is, adults
>who are "functionally" literate. New analyses of the results from the
>only study available that measured the functional literacy skills of
>preschool children and a control group of children who did not receive
>preschool when they reached young adulthood (age 19) indicates that the
>two groups were not significantly different with regard to literacy
>skills - and both groups were "functionally illiterate" by contemporary
>The famous High /Scope Perry Preschool study (reported in the Changed
>Lives book, Berrueta-Clement, et. a., 1984) is frequently cited as
>having produced young adults who were more literate than the
>non-preschool control group (Brizius & Foster, 1993, p. 56). However
>that conclusion is wrong because the functional literacy assessment and
>the analysis of results was faulty on several counts.
>(1) A total of eight of the 19 year old young adults refused to take the
>Adult Performance Level (APL) functional literacy test because "they
>could not read" (Berrueta-Clement, et. a., 1984, p. 34). Five of these
>eight were from the preschool group and three from the control group.
>That is almost nine percent of the preschool group compared to five
>percent of the control group who said they could not read.
>(2) The researchers omitted the eight people who said they could not
>read from the analysis of the literacy skills of preschool and control
>groups. However, that is an inappropriate procedure. Instead, the eight
>illiterates should have been given scores of zero and then these scores
>should have been used to calculate the average scores of the two groups.
>In the "Changed Lives" report, the mean scores for preschool and control
>groups on the total test of 40 items were given as 61.5 percent and 54.5
>percent respectively. However, the new mean scores with the five zero
>scores added to the preschool group and the three zero scores added to
>the control group's scores produced scores of 56 percent and 52 percent,
>respectively, scores that placed  both groups almost a standard
>deviation (SD) below the norming group, at about the 16th percentile.
>The norming group of the APL test was made-up of students in adult basic
>education courses, of whom some 78 percent had no high school diploma.
>The preschool and control groups scored well below this norming group,
>which, itself, represents a lower level of skills than expected of a
>more representative sample of adults in the United States.
>(3) On page 183 of the "Changed Lives" report, a three-way analysis of
>covariance that adjusted for differences in preschool and control
>children's IQ's, their family socioeconomic status, mother's education
>and mother's employment at study entry is presented. The results
>indicate no significant difference between preschool and control groups
>on the APL at age 19, even with the eight illiterates excluded. But in
>the body of the report the researchers ignored this multivariate
>analysis and instead relied on simple two-way tests of significance
>which ignored the fact that 30 percent of control group mothers worked
>outside the home while only about 9 percent of preschool mothers worked
>outside the home (Berrueta-Clement, et. al, 1984, p. 8). This  means
>that there could have been many more oral language and emergent literacy
>interactions among mothers and their children in the preschool group.
>(4) An additional problem that renders the use of the APL findings
>inappropriate, is that, instead of young adults taking the tests
>unaided, as called for in the administration procedures of the APL, in
>the Perry Preschool study, "Othe interviewer read each of the items to
>the respondent and could repeat them upon request" (Berrueta-Clement,
>et. al, p. 34). The report goes on to state that, "Reading skills were
>still required, however, to decode and interpret, the supplementary
>information needed for some of the items." (Berrueta-Clement, et. al,
>p.34). However, since the APL was not  administered according to the
>standard conditions under which the test norms were developed, the
>results cannot meaningfully be interpreted in terms of the norms given
>for the test.
>All this raises an important policy question, is it possible that
>starting early childhood education at birth is too late? Suppose that
>the real head start starts with the heads of the parents and that over
>the last three decades if we had invested "pounds" in our "cures" by
>putting billions of dollars into the compensatory education of
>adolescents and young adults, we might have prevented many unwanted
>pregnancies, led many mothers-to-be to find and obtain good prenatal
>care and have fewer and healthier babies, and made it possible to have
>to prepare many fewer children for school through institutional
>interventions.  Possibly, given the many multiplier effects of investing
>in the education of adults, a few more "ounces of cure" with adults may
>have been worth many "pounds of prevention" with children.
>Berrueta-Clement, et. al (1984). Changed lives: The effects of the Perry
>Preschool Program on youths through age 19. Ypsilanti, MI: The
>High/Scope Press. (data for the figure comes from pages 32-36)
>Brizius, J. & Foster, S. (1993). Generation to generation. Realizing the
>promise of family literacy. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press. (p. 56)

Research Note 9/25/99
> The Myth of the Early Years: All Is Not Lost By Age 3:
> Adults Can Learn and Their Brains Can Grow
> Thomas G. Sticht
> Applied Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences
> On Sunday, October 13, 1991 The San Diego Union newspaper reprinted an
> article by Joan Beck, columnist for the Chicago Tribune that argued for
> early childhood education because, "Half of adult intellectual capacity
> is already present by age 4 and 80 percent by age 8, the great education
> researcher Dr. Benjamin Bloom reported in scholarly studies in the 1960s
> that helped establish the importance of early learning. No matter how
> good schools are, how capable and caring the teachers, they will not
> have as much effect on a child's permanent level of intelligence as has
> the environment in which he has lived before he started to first grade."
> Behind this widespread belief is another belief based on (faulty)
> understandings of newurscience that the brain and its  intellectual
> capacity  is   developed   in   early   childhood and this has important
> implications for cognitive development over the lifespan. Even the First
> Lady of the United States has weighed in with the pronouncement  that ,
> "The first three years of life are crucial in establishing the brain
> cell connections. ...By the end of three or four years, however, the
> pace of learning slows... The process continues to slow as we mature,
> and as we age our brain cells and synapses begin to whither away.
> ...With proper stimulation, brain synapses will form at a rapid pace,
> reaching adult levels by the age of two and far surpassing them in the
> next several years." (Clinton, 1996, pp. 57-58).
> It has been aruged that if children's early childhood development  is
> not properly stimulated, then there is likely to be underdevelopment of
> the brain and that can lead to lower intellectual ability, poor school
> learning and to a life characterized by  social problems such as
> unemployment,  criminal activity, teenage pregnancy and welfare. It will
> be difficult if not impossible to overcome the disadvantages of
> deficiencies in early childhood stimulation later in adulthood. And so,
> some might argue,  "Why should we invest in adult literacy education?
> Letis put our money into early childhood programs. An ounce of
> prevention is worth a pound of cure!"
> But now  trends in both brain science and cognitive science have
> converged to bring about revisions to these ideas from the conventional
> wisdom. For over a decade, the James S. McDonnell Foundation in St.
> Louis has supported extensive research in neuroscience. Recently, John
> Bruer, President of the Foundation has written a new book entitled "The
> Myth of the First Three Years" (The Free Press, 1999) in which he
> explains that the findings of neuroscience do not support the claims
> made above by Mrs. Clinton or Joan Beck or other claims for early
> stimulation of infants and children under three years of age. He further
> argues that most neuroscience is  irrelevant for early childhood and
> in-school education (1997, 1998). Following is a brief summary from
> earlier articles of what Bruer regards as major misconceptions that
> educators have of brain science (see my paper Beyond 2000: Future
> Directions for Adult Education  in the Full Text Documents page at
> for references  to articles by Bruer):
> (1). Claim: Enriched early childhood environments causes synapses to
> multiply rapidly. Bruer states, "What little direct evidence we have n
> all based on studies of monkeys  - indicates these claims are
> inaccurate....The rate of synaptic formation and synaptic density seems
> to be impervious to quantity of stimulation. ...Early experience does
> not cause synapses to form rapidly. Early enriched environments will not
> put our children on synaptic fast tracks"(1998, pp. 13-14).
> (2). Claim: More synapses mean more brainpower. Bruer states, "The
> neuroscientific evidence does not support this claim, either.
> ...Synaptic densities at birth and in early adulthood are approximately
> the same, yet by any measure adults are more intelligent, have more
> highly flexible behavior, and learn more rapidly than infants" (1998,
> pp. 14-15).
> (3). Claim: The plateau period of high synaptic density and high brain
> metabolism is the optimal period for learning. Bruer states, "The
> neuroscientific evidence for this claim is extremely weak. The
> neuroscientists who count synapses in humans and monkeys merely point
> out that during the plateau period, monkeys and humans develop a variety
> of skills and behaviors. ...We do not know what relationship exists
> between high resting brain metabolism and learning, any more than we
> know what relation exists between high synaptic numbers and ability to
> learn."(1998, pp. 15-17.
> Bruer goes on to say that, "Truly new results in neuroscience, rarely
> mentioned in the brain and education literature, point to the brainis
> lifelong capacity to reshape itself in response to experience"(1998, p.
> 17). In his new book (1999) he references work in adult literacy to make
> the point that, "Adult literacy programs provide additional evidence
> that acquiring and improving literacy skills is not time-limited or
> subject to critical period  limitations." (p. 112).  He says, "The
> limiting factor in vocabulary growth, and presumably for some of the
> other things Verbal IQ measures, is exposure to new words, facts, and
> exxperiences. The brain can benefit from this exposure at almost any
> time-early childhood, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and
> senescence."(p. 177)
> For adult literacy educators, Bruer makes the important policy argument
> that with a better understanding of the limitations of present day
> neuroscience for understanding education, "We might question the
> prudence of decreasing expenditures for adult education or special
> education on the grounds that a person's intellectual and emotional
> course is firmly set during the early years." (p. 26, This is a myth he
> rejects and it is an important point in light of the current budget
> activites in Congress which place tens of billions of dollars in early
> childhood and in-school compensatory programs and less than $400 million
> in programs for educating adults.


Norman A. Stahl, Acting Chair
Department of Literacy,
Intercultural and Language Education
GH 223c
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL  60115

(815) 753-9032 {office}
(815) 753-8563 (FAX)

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