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Colegrove research challenges "Word Gap" theory in education

By Jack McClellan
Office of Media Relations
November 22, 2017

Kiyomi Sánchez-Suzuki Colegrove, an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University, has co-authored research challenging "Word Gap" theory in education.

The research article, "How the Word Gap Argument Negatively Impacts Young Children of Latinx Immigrants’ Conceptualizations of Learning," appears in the fall 2017 edition of the Harvard Education Review and was featured in the October 22 edition of the Washington Post, in “Why a key research finding is ruining education in Texas.”

Colegrove co-authored the article with University of Texas at Austin professor Jennifer Keys Adair and UT doctoral student Molly E. McManus. The article may be found at hepg.org/her-home/issues/harvard-educational-review-volume-87-number-3/herarticle/how-the-word-gap-argument-negatively-impacts-young.

The research details how widespread acceptance of the “word gap” theory perpetuates discrimination against children of Latino immigrants, despite educators’ best intentions. The word gap theory, based on a 1995 study by University of Kansas psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, states that impoverished children hear fewer words in their first four years than affluent students. Because of this, Colegrove argues children of Latino immigrants are exposed to less dynamic forms of learning out of concern they aren't as prepared as their white, native-born peers.

Colegrove specializes in bilingual and bicultural education at Texas State. In addition to the Harvard Education Review, she has published in Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood Education, Bilingual Research Journal, Teachers College Record and Asia-Pacific Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education. Her research focuses on the curricular and pedagogical preferences of Latino immigrant parents and the relationship between home and school, particularly in the early grades.

About Texas State University

Founded in 1899, Texas State University is among the largest universities in Texas with an enrollment of 38,694 students on campuses in San Marcos and Round Rock. Texas State’s 181,000-plus alumni are a powerful force in serving the economic workforce needs of Texas and throughout the world. Designated an Emerging Research University by the State of Texas, Texas State is classified under “Doctoral Universities: Higher Research Activity,” the second-highest designation for research institutions under the Carnegie classification system.

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