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IES Grant

Title: Evaluation of the Effectiveness of the Ohio Department of Education's Literacy Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Educators
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Piasta, Shayne Awardee: Ohio State University
Program: Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years Award Amount: $5,998,358
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305E100030

Co-Principal Investigator: Laura Justice

Purpose: This project will evaluate the Ohio Department of Education-sponsored professional development course for early childhood educators known as the Literacy Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Educators ("Core") program. Nearly 1,200 Ohio pre-K educators have been trained in Core since 2008; however; the effectiveness of this program and its companion mentoring program, the Teacher Leader Program, to increase educators' literacy-related knowledge and practices has not been tested against other state-sponsored professional development courses (e.g., those that focus on math or science). Similarly, the effects of such literacy-based programs on literacy-related skills of children in participating teachers' classes are unknown. This research team will address both of these questions by conducting an independent evaluation of Core and the Teacher Leader Program using a randomized controlled trial.

Project Activities: During the project, 960 early childhood educators will be randomly assigned to participate in the Core program, Core plus the Teacher Leader Program, or an alternative state professional development program in such subjects as math or science. Teachers will be assessed, including a pre-assessment, four times over an 18-month period to assess changes in their literacy-related knowledge and instructional skills. Students will be assessed on their literacy and related skills twice during pre-K and once in the fall of kindergarten. The project will also document the fidelity of implementation of the professional development programs and determine their costs.

Products: The results from this evaluation of the effectiveness Core professional development program will be directly provided to the Ohio Department of Education through the participation of department personnel on the project team and to the research community and other education practitioners and policymakers through presentations and publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study tracks four cohorts of teachers and students from school districts throughout Ohio.

Population: The sample of early childhood educators (preK teachers) are to represent various subgroups of teachers working in state-sponsored preschool programs, including early childhood special education classrooms and standard early childhood education classrooms; publicly and privately funded classrooms; center-based and home-based classrooms; rural, urban, and suburban classrooms; and credentialed and non-credentialed teachers in order to determine possible moderating effects of teacher or class environment characteristics. Children in the study are all students of teachers in the study, enrolled in state-sponsored preschool programs, native speakers of English, and expected to enter kindergarten in the following fall.

Intervention: The intervention in this study has two components: the Literacy Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Educators ("Core") professional development program and a complementary Teacher Leader Program. Depending on a participating teacher's treatment group, he or she will receive either the Core or the Core plus the Teacher Leader program.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Core program, administered by the Early Childhood Quality Network (ECQ-net), is a 10-week, 30-hour professional development program that aims to raise educators' knowledge of current research on children's language and literacy development, increase teachers support of best practices for literacy development and feelings of efficacy in respect to creating environments to support literacy development, and increase teachers' use of effective classroom practices. The five topics covered by Core include: (1) Environments, (2) Play, (3) Oral Language Development, (4) Early Reading, and (5) Early Writing. Each session within the Core program is structured around three components: Explorations during which teachers share experiences and brainstorm about the session's topic, Implications and Demonstrations during which the instructor provides information to the teachers and leads a discussion on the session's topic, and Connections to Teaching and Learning during which teachers are able to discuss and design classroom plans for using what they have learned.

In addition to Core, ODE sponsors a companion program called the Teacher Leader Program, which is also administered by ECQ-net. Teachers in the program receive 4 to 6 hours of monthly mentoring from seasoned teachers for approximately 6 months. The mentors are teachers who have participated in Core and have received an additional 30 hours of training. Mentors and mentees work together to address the individual needs of the mentee by observing, discussing, and improving classroom practices.

Research Design and Methods: Over a 4-year period, teachers who voluntary apply to attend professional development sponsored by the ODE will be asked to take part in the study. Demographic and employment data will be obtained from the consenting teachers who will then be randomly assigned to one of the treatment groups: (1) Core, (2) Core plus Teacher Leader Program, and (3) an alternative ODE program. Purposely sampling will be used to distribute equal numbers of teachers from specific subgroups across the three treatment groups.

The project will collect data from each of the four cohorts of teachers at four points over an 18-month period: the fall (baseline data), spring, and winter of the treatment year and the fall of the subsequent year. These data include measures of teacher knowledge, dispositions, and practices. Field assessors will also visit the teachers' classrooms four times: once during the fall, spring, and winter of the training year and once during the fall of the subsequent year. These all-day, in-class observations will be videotaped for later coding and scoring.

The project will also recruit five students for each teacher from among the teacher-identified eligible students (i.e., the students who the teacher has identified as being native speakers of English and who will enroll in kindergarten the following year). After parental consent is obtained, the researchers will collect data about the child from the child's parent/guardian, the teacher, and the child at three points over the 18-month period: the fall (baseline data) and spring of the teacher's training year and the fall of the subsequent year when the child enters kindergarten. These data include demographic/background information; language, literacy, and school readiness assessments; kindergarten readiness assessments; and other measures such as home literacy, student-teacher relationship, and child temperament and behavior.

Control Condition: Teachers in the control condition receive courses approved by the OED and administered by EDQ-net in non-literacy-development based domains, such as math or science. They will not receive the Teacher Leadership Program.

Key Measures: Teacher measures will be collected to determine teachers' knowledge of age-appropriate literature, language and literacy development, and pedagogy; their dispositions and beliefs concerning literacy development and pedagogy, general practices in preschool classrooms, adult- versus child-centered instruction, and self-efficacy in promoting language and literacy development; and their use of effective classroom practices including elements such as instructional and emotional support, classroom management, and amount of time spent focusing on literacy. These data will be collected from questionnaires and videotaped in-class observations. Measures will be collected during the fall, winter, and spring of the training year and during a follow-up in the fall of the subsequent year.

Child measures will be collected to assess the child's expressive and receptive language; phonological, alphabet, and print knowledge; emergent reading and writing abilities; and classroom readiness, including social behavioral and academic readiness. These data will be collected from teachers and also from students by hired assessors during the fall and spring of the child's first year of participation and during the fall of his or her kindergarten year as a follow-up. During the first year, parents/guardians will provide data on the child's home environment (e.g. parental/guardian beliefs about child literacy and frequency of literacy practices at home), the child's temperament, and the quality of the student-teacher relationship. Additional data will be collected from the statewide kindergarten readiness assessment for literacy during the fall of the child's kindergarten year.

Fidelity of implementation measures for the teachers will also be collected. This data track the attendance and participation of a teacher in his or her professional development courses and will include mentoring logs, if applicable.

Data Analytic Strategy: Data analysis will be conducted using hierarchical linear models (HLMs). For teachers, growth curve analysis will be done to examine repeated measures nested within teachers. The student analysis will have students nested within schools and examine student gains from the pre-test to the end of pre-K and to the start of kindergarten. A subgroup analysis will re-estimate the teacher and child analyses for: early childhood educators versus early childhood special educators; publicly funded/needs-based, privately funded center-based, and privately funded home-based classrooms; rural, urban, and suburban classrooms; and teachers with and without credentials. A moderator analysis will explore possible program, teacher, and child variables, beyond the aforementioned subgroups, that may moderate the effects. The project will also complete a cost analysis of Core and the Teacher Leader Program.

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Dynia, J. M., Schachter, R. E., Piasta, S. B., Justice, L. M., O'Connell, A. A., & Yeager Pelatti, C. (2016). An Empirical Investigation of the Dimensionality of the Physical Literacy Environment in Early Childhood Classrooms. Journal of Early Childhood Research.

Ottley, J. R., Piasta, S. B., Mauck, S. A., O'Connell, A., Weber–Mayrer, M., and Justice, L. M. (2015). The Nature and Extent of Change in Early Childhood Educators' Language and Literacy Knowledge and Beliefs. Teaching and Teacher Education, 52: 47–55.

Pelatti, C.Y., Piasta, S.B., Justice, L.M., and O'Connell, A. (2014). Language–And Literacy–Learning Opportunities in Early Childhood Classrooms: Children's Typical Experiences and Within–Classroom Variability. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29(4), 445–456.

Piasta, S.B., Justice, L.M., O'Connell, A.A., Mauck, S.A., Weber–Mayrer, M., Schachter, R.E., ... and Spear, C.F. (2017). Effectiveness of Large–Scale, State–Sponsored Language and Literacy Professional Development on Early Childhood Educator Outcomes. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 10(2), 354–378.

Piasta, S.B., Phillips, B M., Williams, J.M., Bowles, R.P., and Anthony, J. L. (2016). Measuring Young Children's Alphabet Knowledge: Development and Validation of Brief Letter–Sound Knowledge Assessments. The Elementary School Journal, 116(4), 523–548.

Schachter, R. E. (2017). Early Childhood Teachers' Pedagogical Reasoning about How Children Learn during Language and Literacy Instruction. International Journal of Early Childhood, 49(1): 95–111.

Schachter, R. E., Spear, C. F., Piasta, S. B., Justice, L. M., and Logan, J. A. R. (2016). Early Childhood Educators' Knowledge, Beliefs, Education, Experiences and Children's Language– and Literacy–Learning Opportunities: What Is the Connection?. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36: 281–294.

Spear, C.F., Piasta, S.B., Yeomans–Maldonado, G., Ottley, J.R., Justice, L.M., and O'Connell, A.A. (2018). Early Childhood General and Special Educators: An Examination of Similarities and Differences in Beliefs, Knowledge, and Practice. Journal of Teacher Education.

Weber–Mayrer, M. M., Piasta, S. B., & Yeager Pelatti, C. (2015). State–Sponsored Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators: Who Participates and Associated Implications for Future Offerings. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 36(1), 44–60.