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Volume 5 Number 1
©The Author(s) 2003

Introduction to the Discussion

Lilian G. Katz
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In this issue of Early Childhood Research & Practice, we are pleased to include the comments of Professor Christopher Lonigan on the article by Professor Rebecca Marcon titled "Moving up the Grades: Relationship between Preschool Model and Later School Success," published in volume 4, number 1, Spring 2002, and Professor Marcon's response to those comments. This kind of scholarly exchange is precisely what we had hoped to encourage by distributing a press release announcing the publication of Marcon's paper, and we hope that readers will find it engaging. In addition, we hope that addressing this topic and the complexities of conducting reliable longitudinal research will lead to a stronger commitment to supporting more such research. Professor Lonigan's suggestion that the distribution of the press release may have been "more about politics than about science" and his reference to "politically motivated dissemination of misinformation" should not distract us from the important issues he raises about how to interpret the complex data presented by Marcon.

Professor Lonigan is associate professor of psychology at Florida State University and associate director of the Florida Center for Reading Research (http://www.fcrr.org/). He has worked with Grover "Russ" Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, on emergent literacy and related issues, including the development of the National Center for Learning Disabilities' "Get Ready to Read" screening tool (http://www.getreadytoread.org/research.html). Recent publications include "Development and Promotion of Emergent Literacy Skills in Preschool Children At-Risk of Reading Difficulties" in Preventing and Remediating Reading Difficulties: Bringing Science to Scale (B. Foorman, ed.), and "Temperamental Basis of Anxiety Disorders in Children" (with B. M. Phillips) in The Developmental Psychopathology of Anxiety (M. W. Vasey & M. R. Dadds, eds.).

Professor Marcon is a developmental psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of North Florida. After working as a school psychologist in the barrios of East Los Angeles, she has held faculty positions in the Departments of Psychology at Clemson University, Davidson College, and the University of North Florida. She was also a senior research associate in the District of Columbia Public Schools where she initiated an ongoing longitudinal study of early childhood educational practices. The research reported here has been ongoing for more than a decade, and reports of its findings have been published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Developmental Psychology, and other scientific journals in the field.

The issues involved in this exchange matter a great deal to all who work with young children, as we struggle to understand more fully the nature of short- versus long-term effects of the pedagogical approaches we take. It is difficult to obtain hard data on the big issues (it is fairly easy to do so on the little ones, like knowledge of the alphabet) because the definitive experiments that would be required to provide the hard data may often be unethical to conduct.

The problem is not political but ideological. Ideologies are deeply held beliefs that fill the vacuum created by the unavailability of hard data. Our best strategy in such situations is to make our ideas and the data that we do have readily available to others who can subject them to vigorous argument and debate.

We are grateful to both contributors to this discussion for helping us to think more clearly about how best to approach the scientific as well as pedagogical issues involved in supporting our young children's growth, learning, and development.