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IES Grant

Title: Exploring Early Childhood Education Experiences and School Adjustment in Rural Elementary School Students
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Pears, Katherine Awardee: Oregon Social Learning Center
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/2014 – 6/30/2016) Award Amount: $395,553
Award Number: R305H140081
Description:

Name of Partners: Oregon Social Learning Center, South Lane School District, and United Way of Lane County

Education Issue: Children in rural areas are at high risk for deficits in school readiness skills, which can negatively affect school performance and adjustment across the elementary school years and beyond. Access to good information about the early care and education experiences of students who attend their elementary schools is one way that rural districts can better serve those students. However, basic information about the early childhood education (ECE) and child care experiences of children in rural school districts is not widely available, and links to the children’s academic and social-emotional outcomes have not been explored thoroughly.

The South Lane School District (SLSD) is a rural district in Oregon, serving a large percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged children and a small but growing group of ethnic minority children. There is an urgent need to better prepare the incoming kindergarteners to improve their long-term academic and social adjustment. The district considers it essential to involve ECE and child care providers in these efforts and to improve alignment between the ECE and K–12 systems. To achieve these goals, the district must first acquire basic information about the range of ECE and care experiences of their students and how such experiences are associated with subsequent school adjustment. Second, they must collect more detailed information on the providers, their school-readiness goals, and their attitudes towards greater alignment. The purpose of this project is to establish a partnership between SLSD, Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC), and United Way of Lane County (UWLC) that would allow SLSD to obtain this critical information and use it to develop future plans for better preparing students for academic success.

Partnership significance and goal: The three organizations (SLSD, OSLC and UWLC) will develop a formalized partnership to help SLSD collect information about the early childhood education and child care experiences of incoming kindergarteners. They will also examine associations between such experiences and school readiness, and academic and social emotional adjustment across the kindergarten year for both the general population and high-risk subpopulations. Additionally, information will be collected from local ECE and care providers on their school readiness goals and needs, and perspectives on alignment with the K-12 system. Findings from these research activities will help the district to plan future research and develop interventions to further their long-term goals of better school readiness, and subsequent achievement, for all of their students.

Partners and Partnership Activities: This is a researcher–practitioner partnership involving three different organizations. South Lane School District (SLSD) is a rural district in Lane County, Oregon serving a large percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged children. The district is committed to better preparing incoming kindergarteners for long-term academic success, and considers improved information about and alignment with the early childhood education (ECE) and care system to be critical to these efforts. Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC) is an independent, non-profit, internationally-recognized research institute that can provide SLSD with expertise in assessment of school readiness and adjustment, data collection, and analysis techniques. United Way of Lane County (UWLC) is a leader in efforts to improve early education in Lane County and will provide crucial connections to stakeholders across the county and the state.

The partnership will focus on accomplishing the following project objectives: (1) Establish a sustainable practitioner-researcher partnership between SLSD, OSLC, and UWLC; (2a) Develop a better understanding of incoming kindergarteners’ early childhood education (ECE) and child care experiences and associations with school readiness, academic achievement, and social-emotional outcomes in kindergarten; (2b) Develop a better understanding of the early childhood education and child care experiences of the highest risk children in the district; and (3) Explore the school readiness goals, needs, and perspectives on alignment of the providers in the district. To accomplish the first objective, the members of the partnership will create an infrastructure to support the planes activities of the partnership and sustain the partnership as the members meet and work together to translate the findings from this study into long-term efforts and programming to improve student outcomes. To accomplish objectives 2a and 2b, the members of the partnership will utilize existing data and collect additional information to describe the ECE and child care usage of incoming kindergarteners. They will use data from three yearly cohorts (2013-2015) of children. The partners will investigate the associations between ECE and child care experiences and school readiness and adjustment outcomes for three subgroups: socioeconomically disadvantaged children, ethnic minority children, and children with developmental disabilities. To accomplish the third objective, the partners will examine the perspectives of local ECE and care providers on school readiness, their needs for assistance in preparing children for school, and how the district could work with them to help children be better prepared for kindergarten and long-term academic success.

Setting: In this study, research will be conducted using educational records of kindergarteners in five elementary schools in a rural district in Lane County, Oregon. Primary data collection will be conducted with early care and education (ECE) programs and child care providers in the district. Focus groups with ECE and care providers will take place at elementary schools in that district.

Population/Sample: The proposed study involves analyses of the de-identified records of approximately 600 SLSD students entering kindergarten in three successive cohorts from 2013-2015. Additionally, approximately 25-30 ECE and care providers will be invited to participate in focus groups. Groups will include center-based and family-based providers.

Initial Analysis: Researchers will conduct data analyses that will employ both univariate (e.g., analysis of variance) and multivariate (e.g., structural equation modeling) approaches. Using data from the KPQ, researchers will examine the rates of ECE and child care experiences. In addition, the research team will investigate the extent to which early childhood experiences are associated with children’s school readiness skills at kindergarten entry. Researchers will conduct separate analyses for high-risk subpopulations. Also, the research team will conduct qualitative analyses and transcribe and code focus group content for sub-themes such as school readiness goals, needs, and perspectives on alignment.


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