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Institute of Education Sciences

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IES Grant

Title: Miami-Dade County Partnership for School Readiness and Early School Success
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Shearer, Rebecca Awardee: University of Miami
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (8/16/2014-8/15/2016) Award Amount: $399,606
Award Number: R305H140140

Name of Partners: University of Miami, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, The Children’s Trust, and the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe

Education Issue: Addressing the school readiness needs of children living in low-income communities as they transition into kindergarten is a critical, national policy issue. In Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), the achievement gap among students in the District – and the disparities at kindergarten entry between low-income children and their more socioeconomically advantaged peers – is a central concern. These disparities are of particularly of concern in Title 1 Schools and Education Transformation Office schools (ETOs), where students have historically high failure rates. These disparities persist even though a large proportion of children who enter M-DCPS prekindergarten and kindergarten programs have previously received educational services through community-based preschool programs. To date, formal research partnerships among these early childhood educational providers and M-DCPS have not been created. A partnership will be established and the partners will focus on addressing critical needs to bridge the gaps between prekindergarten and kindergarten to ensure that children are ready for school at kindergarten entry.

Partnership significance and goal: The goal of this project is to create a partnership to address the school readiness skills and early school achievement of children who attend M-DCPS. The project will unfold in three major phases. First, the partners will create an infrastructure and carry out joint needs assessments. The goal is to build a researcher-practitioner partnership that is sustainable in the long-term and that uses available data to conduct descriptive analyses to inform M-DCPS practice and policy needs in the short-term. Second, the partners will conduct descriptive analyses of school readiness data, using data available once agreements for integrating data are in place. Finally, the partners will share findings that can be used to support policy action and future research.

Partners and Partnership Activities: This partnership will examine the school readiness skills and early school success of children who transition from a range of early care and education settings into the Miami-Dade County public schools. The University of Miami (UM) and the Miami-Dade County Public School (M-DCPS) will jointly lead the partnership, with partners from The Children’s Trust, Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe (ELC), the Miami-Dade Community Action Agency & Human Services (CAHSD)/Head Start Program (HS), and the Children’s Registry and Information System (CHRIS).

M-DCPS staff generated the research questions, and will co-lead all research-partnership activities for the project, with UM as lead research partner. UM’s Department of Psychology researchers bring analytic and content expertise that will inform in the work of the partners and contribute to long-term implementation of high quality research, assessment, and intervention practices. Researchers at The Children’s Trust, an independent special district of local government established in 2002 by Miami-Dade County voters, will play a central role in developing data-sharing agreements across organizations; providing data on the quality of child care programs and the qualifications of the workforce participating in Quality Counts; linking the community-level EDI data on kindergartners’ vulnerabilities across five developmental domains with data collected by other partners and American Community Survey (census tract) data; providing geographic mapping services to visualize needs and results; and engaging in data analysis and dissemination of the collective findings for the collaborative. The ELC currently collects data for 12,000 preschool children in Miami-Dade and will share these data for use in the proposed project, thus enabling ELC to follow children from their programs into M-DCPS elementary schools and evaluate whether their efforts are related to improvements in student outcomes. CAHSD/HS and CHRIS will facilitate agreements for sharing data and participate in the Advisory group to inform policy directions of the partnership. CAHSD provides Head Start (HS) services to over 6,500 low-income children throughout the county in more than 360 classrooms. CHRIS is a specialized UM Center of the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System.

Across these multiple organizations, there is no established process for linking or aligning children’s early childhood and M-DCPS kindergarten experiences. The lack of coordination and data linkages will be addressed in this project. The immediate goal is to build a formal research partnership between UM and M-DCPS that can address the school readiness needs of children, particularly those living in low-income communities. As such, it will create linkages and identify policies and practices that best promote successful transition to kindergarten for children at greatest risk for school failure. With the accomplishment of this goal, the partners will be able to share information with agencies that provide early childhood services (the Children’s Trust, the ELC, CAHSD/HS, and CHRIS), so that findings can inform program practices.

Setting: Research will be conducted using secondary data sources from partner organizations. Kindergarten data will come from M-DCPS. The partners will also collect primary data from early childhood programs in Miami-Dade county.

Population/Sample: Participants include a cohort of children in M-DCPS kindergarten during the 2014-2015 school year. M-DCPS currently serves a population of 23,758 kindergarten children across 269 elementary schools and 1,514 classrooms. Approximately 69 percent of the students are Hispanic, 22 percent Black, 74 percent eligible to receive free/reduced lunch, and 41 percent identified as English language learners. Of this group, at kindergarten entry, approximately ten percent are identified with disabilities. A set of early childhood enrollment and assessment data currently collected by each early childhood partner will be shared for children who participated in preschool programs and who entered M-DCPS kindergarten in the 2014-2015 school year. For the primary data collection, 235 teachers (95 prekindergarten and 140 kindergarten teachers) across 36 schools will be recruited to participate in the collection of survey, interview, and classroom observational data.

Initial Analysis: The research plan will occur in two major phases. In the first phase, working meetings will be established that create a formal mechanism for sharing and linking of early childhood data for two cohorts of children entering M-DCPS kindergarten. While these data are being linked, several needs assessment studies will be conducted in collaboration with UM, M-DCPS, and The Children’s Trust. In addition, M-DCPS will work closely with UM to collect prospective survey and observational data on a small sample of preschool and kindergarten teachers in the Education Transformation Office schools. These data will be useful to M-DCPS in understanding teacher’s needs in the classroom and how best to support them. During phase two of the project, once a mechanism for data linking and data integration is created, research questions will be addressed that are of priority to M-DCPS and partners, and that will serve the basis for a long-term research plan.

In Phase 1, the partners will conduct three needs assessment studies. In the first needs assessment study, they will address the availability of neighborhood and school resources/needs, by mapping geographic areas of resources, risks, and needs onto M-DCPS elementary school boundaries. In the second needs assessment study, teachers will complete the Transition to Kindergarten Questionnaire and a subsample of 5-10 teachers will participate in cognitive interviews so that the partners can get a better understanding of prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers’ perceptions about children’s school readiness needs. The third needs assessment study will examine how preschool teachers support children’s social-emotional and behavioral needs. The partners will identify 10-15 teachers who, in their questionnaires, report that behavioral issues are a major concern. In these classrooms, the partners will use the Teaching Pyramid Observation Tool for Preschool Classrooms-Short Form (TPOT-S) to conduct classroom observations. Data from the needs assessment studies will be used to inform data analyses that will be completed in Phase 2 of the project.

In Phase 2, the partners will use linked data to address five questions. First, the team will conduct a descriptive analysis of the frequency of major categories of preschool experiences (e.g., Head Start, private child care, or no formal care), the number of children who participated in preschool for 1 or 2 years, and the frequency and range of high quality of preschool experiences for those children. Second, the team will use data from the first needs assessment study to examine where preschool programs located, to identify where programs of high quality are found, and to describe the preschool participation patterns for kindergarteners who enter M-DCPS schools. Third, the partners will use a series of latent class analysis (LCA) models to identify distinct groups (or classes) of children entering M-DCPS kindergarten classrooms on the basis of common patterns for key school readiness indicators. Fourth, the partners will use the school readiness profile groups they identified in the LCA to examine whether the groups are differentially associated with relevant indicators of kindergarten social and academic outcomes. Finally, the team will examine the overlap between preschool participation, community/neighborhood risk, and community-level developmental vulnerabilities. The findings will be disseminated and used to inform future research and policy initiatives.