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IES Grant

Title: A Randomized Study of the Efficacy of a Two-Year Mathematics Intervention for At-Risk Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Students
Center: NCER Year: 2012
Principal Investigator: Starkey, Prentice Awardee: WestEd
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (3/1/20122/29/2016) Award Amount: $3,500,000
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A120262
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Alice Klein; Scott Baker and Ben Clarke (University of Oregon)

Purpose: Most public preschool and kindergarten programs spend little time on mathematics. In addition, the mathematics curricula typically used in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten are not evidence-based, effective mathematics curricula and share two common design flaws. First, the content included is typically too broad and thus fails to systematically focus on building student understanding of key math content. Second, most curricula are not designed to address the specific mathematics instructional needs of at-risk students, including students from low-income backgrounds. The Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics and Early Learning in Mathematics (ELM) curricula have been shown to improve students' mathematics achievement at pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, respectively, in prior, separate evaluations. Although students in the treatment condition improved in their mathematics learning in the prior separate evaluations of Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics and ELM, low-income students' mathematics performance still lagged behind their middle-class peers. The current study will combine the two, one-year interventions into a two-year pre-kindergarten and kindergarten intervention that has the potential to produce strong effects at the end of the kindergarten year and enable low-income students to perform comparably to their middle-class peers on high stakes mathematics assessments. This study will provide empirical evidence about whether the two-year intervention improves low-income students' mathematical knowledge and the degree to which the intervention closes the socioeconomic status-related achievement gap in students' mathematical knowledge.

Project Activities: The researchers will evaluate the efficacy of the combined, Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics and Early Learning in Mathematics curricula at pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, respectively, through two studies. In the main study, 72 elementary schools will be randomly assigned to use the Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics and Early Learning in Mathematics curricula over a two-year period, or to implement their business-as-usual mathematics curriculum. The results from the main study will provide evidence of the impact of the combined curricula on low-income students' mathematical knowledge. In the normative comparison study, a quasi-experiment will be conducted to determine whether the performance levels of low-income students in the treatment group are similar to the performance levels of middle-income students in the comparison group at the end of Kindergarten. The results from the Normative Comparison study will provide evidence about the degree to which the two-year intervention closes the income-related gap in students' mathematical knowledge.

Products: The products of this project include information on the combined efficacy of the Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics and Early Learning in Mathematics curricula for improving mathematics outcomes for low-income early elementary school students, and peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The setting for this study includes ethnically and socioeconomically diverse urban pre-kindergarten and elementary schools in California and Nevada.

Sample: The main study sample includes 72 elementary schools with at least one public pre-kindergarten classroom and one kindergarten classroom in the same school. Approximately 864 students will participate in the main study and all students will be from low-income families. The research sample for the normative comparison study will consist of 36 elementary schools from the same school districts as the schools in the main study. Approximately 432 students will participate in the normative comparison study and will be from middle-income families.

Intervention: The Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics curriculum consists of 32 small-group math activities with concrete manipulatives. Teachers typically conduct small group math activities twice per week for 20–25 minutes with time during a third day for review. The units and activities are aligned with the kindergarten clusters of standards included in the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. The Early Learning in Mathematics (ELM) curriculum includes 120 math lessons, 45 minutes in duration, supplemented by a daily 15-minute calendar activity. ELM includes daily activities that are sent home to parents to provide their children with additional practice outside of school. ELM content strands include whole numbers, operations, geometry, and measurement. All activities incorporate a variety of math models for children to build conceptual understanding.

Research Design and Methods: In the main study, a cluster randomized control trial will be conducted in 72 elementary schools that have at least one public pre-kindergarten classroom and one kindergarten classroom on the same elementary school campus. Schools will be randomly assigned within the district to receive the two-year, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten intervention or to serve as part of the control condition. Within each school, one pre-kindergarten and one kindergarten classroom will participate in the study. A sample of 12 pre-kindergarten children will be randomly selected from participating pre-kindergarten classrooms at each school at the beginning of Year 1, and then the research sample will transition into the participating kindergarten classroom at the same school in Year 2. Students will also be followed-up at grade 1 to determine the long-term impact of the two year intervention.

For the normative comparison study, a middle-class normative comparison sample of 36 schools will be recruited from the same school districts as the treatment schools in the main study. This quasi-experiment will use a nonrandomized noninferiority design to attempt to determine whether the performance levels of low-income students in the treatment group are similar to the performance levels of middle-income students in the comparison group at the end of kindergarten. Within each kindergarten classroom, all students who do not meet the income criteria for free or reduced lunch will be recruited up to a maximum of 12 students per classroom. The mathematics outcomes for students in the normative comparison study will be compared to outcomes for students in the treatment group of the main study.

Control Condition: Schools in the control condition in the main study and schools in the normative comparison study will continue to implement their business-as-usual mathematics curriculum and instruction.

Key Measures: Key student outcome measures include two proximal measures, the Child Math Assessment and the Proximal Early Learning in Mathematics Measure, administered during prekindergarten and kindergarten, respectively. The distal student outcome measure, the Test of Early Mathematics Ability, will be administered at prekindergarten, kindergarten, and grade 1.

Data Analytic Strategy: Since the data collected represents longitudinal and nested observations, differential gains between treatment and control groups on measures of student math knowledge will be analyzed using mixed model analysis. For the main study, analyses using a three-level hierarchical linear model with observations nested within students within schools will be conducted. For the normative comparison study, analyses using a two-level hierarchical linear model with students nested within schools will be conducted.

Related IES Projects: Early Learning in Mathematics: A Prevention Approach (R305K040081), Early Learning in Mathematics: Efficacy in Kindergarten Classrooms (R305A080114), A Longitudinal Study of the Effects of a Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics Curriculum on Low-Income Children's Mathematical Knowledge (R305J020026), Scaling Up the Implementation of a Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics Curriculum in Public Preschool Programs (R305K050186) and Closing the SES Related Gap in Young Children's Mathematical Knowledge (R305A080188)


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