Citation: Ricciuti, A.E., R.G. St.Pierre, W. Lee, A. Parsad & T. Rimdzius. Third National Even Start Evaluation: Follow-Up Findings From the Experimental Design Study. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance. Washington, D.C., 2004.
Background: The Even Start Family Literacy Program has provided instructional services to low-income children and their parents since 1989. A previous randomized controlled trial in the early 1990s did not show this program to have positive impacts.
Purpose: To assess the effectiveness of Even Start in a group of grantees around the country. An earlier report from this study presented impact findings based on pretest and posttest data at the start and end of a school year. No program impacts were found. The purpose of the current report is to present impact analyses of follow-up data collected one year after posttest data.
Setting: 18 Even Start grantees in 14 states that operated in the 1999–2000 and 2000–2001 school years.
Subjects: 463 families eligible for and interested in participating in Even Start family literacy services.
Intervention: Even Start families were offered family literacy services, defined as (1) interactive parent-child literacy activities, (2) parenting education, (3) adult education, and (4) early childhood education.
Research Design: Randomized controlled field trial in which families were randomly assigned either to Even Start (309 families) or a control group (154 families).
Control or Comparison Condition: Control families could participate in any educational and social services to which they were entitled, but they were not allowed to participate in Even Start for one year.
Data Collection and Analysis: Pretest data on child and adult literacy skills were collected in the fall, posttest data were collected in the spring/summer, and follow-up data were collected the next spring. Measures included direct assessment of children (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Woodcock-Johnson Battery, Story & Print Concepts), direct assessment of parents (Woodcock-Johnson Battery), teacher report on children (Social Skills Rating System), parent reports on economic and educational status, child literacy-related skills, home literacy environment and activities, parent assessment of children (Vineland Communication Domain), and school records. A longitudinal sample (data at all three waves) of children and parents was created for each outcome measure, and t-tests were conducted to assess differences in gains between Even Start and control groups. The sample size for the analysis of any given outcome depends on several factors including attrition, age of the child, exclusion of families who were assessed in Spanish, and the need for longitudinal data. For example, the PPVT analysis for children was done with samples of 97 Even Start and 44 control children, and the Woodcock-Johnson analysis for parents was done with samples of 149 Even Start and 65 control parents.
Findings: As was the case at posttest, Even Start children and parents made gains on a variety of literacy assessments and other measures at follow-up, but they did not gain more than children and parents in the control group. It had been hypothesized that follow-up data might show positive effects because (1) Even Start families had the opportunity to participate for a second school year, and (2) change in some outcomes might require more time than others. However, the follow-up data do not support either of these hypotheses.
Conclusion: The underlying premise of Even Start as described by the statute and implemented in the field was not supported by this study.