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IES Grant

Title: Getting Ready for School: An Integrated Curriculum to Help Teachers and Parents Support Preschool Children's Early Literacy, Math, and Self-Regulation Skills
Center: NCER Year: 2012
Principal Investigator: Duch, Helena Awardee: Columbia University
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 Years (7/1/2012-6/30/2015) Award Amount: $1,478,693
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A120783

Co-Principal Investigator: Kimberly Noble

Purpose: Preschool children need language and literacy, mathematics, and self-regulation skills in order to be ready for school. While many curricula focus on one or two of these skills, none takes a fully integrated approach to supporting parents and early childhood teachers in fostering these skills in young children. The purpose of this project is to further develop and expand an existing school readiness curriculum, Getting Ready for School (GRS). The current version of the curriculum targets parents and focuses on promoting disadvantaged preschoolers' literacy and math skills. The GRS will be revised and expanded to include self-regulation content and supports for teachers. It is expected that this integrated curriculum will lead to improvements in prekindergarten children's social and academic skills.

Project Activities: The research team will revise and expand the current version of the GRS curriculum and test the promise of the fully developed intervention. The development and testing will be completed in three phases. In Phase 1, the researchers will revise the existing GRS curriculum to incorporate a focus on self-regulation skills. They will also revise and develop professional development materials for parents and teachers, a set of bilingual audiovisual materials to model behaviors that support the curriculum content, and measures to examine feasibility of use and fidelity of implementation. In Phase 2, the researchers will conduct two field tests to examine feasibility, fidelity and quality of implementation on the parent and teacher components of the intervention. Analyses will be conducted and the curricular content and professional development materials will be revised as needed. In Phase 3, a pilot study will be conducted and data analyses will be completed to examine the promising effects of the intervention on parents, teachers, and children's school readiness skills.

Products: The products of this project will be a fully developed, integrated curriculum targeting children's early literacy, math, and self-regulation skills with the use of parent-focused and classroom-based activities, as well as training and implementation supports for parents and early childhood educators. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in urban Head Start programs in New York state.

Sample: Study participants will include low-income preschoolers and their families from two primary demographic backgrounds: a new immigrant Latino population, of whom many speak primarily Spanish at home, and an English-speaking, African-American population. The initial development work will be completed with a sample of 6 teachers and 15 parents. The feasibility study sample will include 12 teachers and 90 to 120 parent-child dyads. The pilot study sample will include 8 teachers and 120 to 180 children and parents.

Intervention: The current version of the curriculum, Getting Ready for School-parent version, consists of nine curriculum units with activities for parents that are designed to promote the development of children's language, literacy, and mathematics skills. The researchers will revise and expand the existing intervention to include: (1) a focus on self-regulation skills; (2) a Classroom Teacher Manual; (3) professional development training and support for teachers; and (4) a set of audiovisual materials to provide guidance and support to parents and teachers in modeling behaviors that reinforce the classroom curricular content and the information that is shared in the parent group workshops. The fully developed, integrated curriculum will include home-based and classroom content and activities to promote young children's acquisition of the knowledge and skills that are related to early school success.

Research Design and Methods: The development and evaluation of the promise of the GRS will take place in three phases over a 3-year period. Phase 1 will focus on development of new curriculum content and supporting materials. Specifically, the researchers will integrate activities promoting self-regulation into the existent curriculum supporting early literacy and math skills. Training materials and manuals will be revised and expanded for use with teachers and parents. A set of bilingual audiovisual materials will be developed for use with the curriculum. The researchers will also develop feasibility and fidelity of implementation measures. Classroom teachers, preschool program administrators, parents and parent group facilitators will provide feedback on the development of new materials and lesson plans.

In Phase 2, two field tests will be conducted to examine the feasibility, fidelity and quality of implementation of the intervention. The researchers will recruit 12 classrooms/teachers, 90 to 120 parents and children, and 6 parent group facilitators to participate in the field tests. Feedback will be obtained from parents and teachers and fidelity of implementation data will be collected. The feasibility and fidelity data will be used to revise and refine the intervention components. In Phase 3, a pilot study will be conducted to examine the initial promise of the intervention. A quasi-experimental study design will be used. Sixteen new teachers and 120 to 160 parent-child dyads (60–80 GRS; 60–80 matched control) will be recruited to participate in the pilot study. The researchers will conduct direct child assessments and collect teacher- and parent-level data. Data analyses will be conducted. It is expected that participation in GRS will improve children's literacy, math and self-regulation skills, relative to participation in business-as-usual Head Start classroom and home activities. It is also expected that improvements in children's school readiness skills will be positively related to the fidelity and intensity with which parents, parent facilitators and classroom teachers implement the program.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition in the first 2 years of the project. For the pilot study phase of the Development grant, the "business as usual" control condition will include 8 classrooms/teachers and 60 to 80 parent-child dyads.

Key Measures: In the development and feasibility testing phases of the project, the researchers will obtain feedback from study participants about the intervention content, challenges implementing the intervention, perceived sustainability of the intervention, and student engagement. Measures will include videotaped observations of classroom teachers, parent group facilitators and parents, focus groups, brief questionnaires, and interviews. Fidelity of implementation measures will be used to assess the degree to which teachers and parent group facilitators were able to successfully implement the intervention components.

In the pilot study phase of the project, the research team will administer direct child assessments and collect teacher- and parent-level data. Classroom observational data will also be collected. The researchers will use a series of standardized measures, including subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Academic Achievement (WJIII) / Bateria Woodcock-Munoz and the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals (CELF-Preschool-2 and CELF-Preschool-2-Spanish). The Preschool Self-Regulation Assessment (PSRA), Executive Control Tasks and Impulse Control Tasks, Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS), and the Affect Knowledge Test will be used to assess skills related to self-regulation. Teachers will be asked to complete the Child Behavior Rating Scale (CBRS), Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation Short Form (SCBE-30) and the Social Skills Improvement System-Teacher Form. Parents will provide ratings of children's social skills and problem behavior using the Social Skills Improvement System-Parent Form. The researchers will use the Classroom Assessment Scoring System to code videotapes of teachers' classroom practices.

Data Analytic Strategy: In Phase 2 of the project, data will be analyzed to determine the degree to which fidelity was reached by parents, parent group facilitators and classroom teachers. The researchers will examine the factors that predict high fidelity of implementation. Feasibility of implementation will be analyzed based on participants' feedback on questionnaires, focus groups and interviews. In the pilot study phase of the project, a series of analyses will be conducted to examine the promising effects of GRS on children's literacy, math and self-regulation skills. To examine the effects of GRS compared to the Head Start-as-usual group, a series of multilevel mixed effects models will be conducted which will account for the nested nature of the data.