Susan H. Landry, University of Texas Health Science Center- Houston
Paul R. Swank, University of Texas Health Science Center- Houston
Michael A. Assel, University of Texas Health Science Center- Houston
Jason Anthony, University of Texas Health Science Center- Houston
Susan Gunnewig, University of Texas Health Science Center- Houston
Abstract: In a recent report on the portrait of American children entering kindergarten, increasingly large numbers of children enter school without the cognitive readiness skills needed to succeed (Zill & West, 2001). This occurs to a large degree because too many children are attending early childcare programs of such low quality that effective learning cannot occur (Helburn, 1995). This presentation will focus on work that has occurred in our PCER study sponsored by IES and demonstrates the importance of a well detailed curriculum for at-risk children.
Two commercial curricula were evaluated against a control condition within each of three settings (HS, Title 1, and Universal pre-K). Schools were randomly assigned to conditions. Half of the teachers within each curricula condition received mentoring. Pre/post-testing during pre-K and follow-up testing in kindergarten was completed on 640 children across multiple outcome measures. Results revealed that the curricula were comparable in terms of children's gains in the area of language. However, curricula differed in terms of children's gains in letter knowledge and PA, which depended on the setting and mentoring conditions. HS classes with a curriculum outperformed HS classes without a curriculum regardless of mentoring. Mentoring also appeared more effective in Title 1 and Universal Pre-K. Results will be discussed in relation to the moderating influences of setting characteristics, mentoring, and specific teacher behaviors. A subset of classrooms was observed using the CIRCLE- Teacher Behavior Rating Scale and the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised. Teacher behaviors as measured by the CIRCLE-TBRS were found to be significantly and positively correlated to child outcomes on standardized literacy measures. In contrast, the ECERS-R was typically negatively correlated with child outcomes. These results highlight the need to consider the importance of specific teacher interactions with students versus global observations of the environment.