What is it about?
Although preschool is intended to level the playing field for children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, it fails to do so. Why? We examined whether early schooling contexts provide unequal opportunities for engagement to children of higher versus lower socioeconomic status (SES). Specifically, we focused on whole-class discussions—a core aspect of the preschool curriculum. When we analyzed extensive recordings of whole-class discussions, we found that low-SES children participated considerably less than their peers. Consistent with the claim of unequal opportunities for engagement, these differences were observed even after accounting for SES differences in language proficiency. These engagement disparities are likely to be compounded by peer perceptions: Preschoolers explained the behavior of children who made oral contributions by appealing to internal factors (e.g., “she’s smart”) and viewed these children as competent and socially skilled.
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Why is it important?
By providing low-SES children with fewer opportunities for engagement, preschool is shortchanging these children and likely amplifying achievement gaps.
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This page is a summary of: Unequal opportunities from the start: Socioeconomic disparities in classroom participation in preschool., Journal of Experimental Psychology General, June 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
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