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IES Grant

Title: Large-Scale Psychometric Assessment of the ECERS-3
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Early, Diane Awardee: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2018) Award Amount: $1,585,103
Type: Measurement Award Number: R305A150109

Co-Principal Investigators: John Sideris and Jennifer Neitzel

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to analyze the psychometric properties of the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-3rd Edition (ECERS-3), the latest version of the widely used observational tool designed to assess global classroom quality in preschool classrooms. Classroom quality is associated with young children's pre-academic and social behavioral skills in preschool and later school achievement. Several state and national initiatives have been developed to increase overall quality in preschool programs and improve access to high-quality programs for young children. The ECERS tools are used by practitioners and researchers to assess the quality of early childhood programs and examine associations between classroom quality and children's school readiness skills. Research has shown that associations between the ECERS-R and child outcomes are generally small to moderate. Research and programmatic efforts to improve early childhood outcomes would benefit from a measure of the early childhood environment that is more strongly linked to children's outcomes. The researchers will refine the ECERS-3 by exploring alternative scoring options and evaluating the validity of the measure for use as an assessment of aspects of classroom quality that are related to child outcomes.

Project Activities: The research team in this study is independent of the developers of the ECERS-3. The researchers will collect data in a range of preschool programs across three states to address three project objectives: (1) validate the ECERS-3 using the scoring system recommended by its authors; (2) refine the tool using item response theory (IRT) to establish an alternative scoring system and investigate the predictive and convergent validity of the subscales created under the alternative; and (3) disseminate the study findings.

Products: Researchers will produce information about the psychometric properties of the ECERS-3, a published classroom observational tool. Researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in preschool programs serving children 3- to 5-years old in three states: Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Washington. The programs will include state-funded prekindergarten, child care, and Head Start.

Sample: Study participants will include 900 preschool classroom teachers and 480 children.

Assessment: The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-3rd Edition (ECERS-3) is the latest version of a widely used assessment of global classroom quality in early childhood classrooms. The ECERS-3 was published in fall of 2014 and it has same structure as the previous version, the ECERS-Revised (ECERS-R). Both the ECERS-R and the ECERS-3 cover several aspects of the classroom environment that are related to child development, including cognitive, social-emotional, physical, health, and safety. The revised classroom observation tool includes new items and indicators to address instructional quality, provide more information about key content areas (e.g., literacy and math), and improve measurement sensitivity. New items were added to address the role of teachers, the quality of teacher-child interactions, and individualized teaching and learning. At the same time that the ECERS-3 was published, Branagh Information Group released a tablet-based electronic data collection system. The ECERS-3 and tablet-based data collection system will be used to collect classroom observation data in a range of preschool classrooms.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will work with early childhood agencies in the states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Washington to collect ECERS-3 data in a large number of preschool classrooms. The team will also collect Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) Pre-K data and child outcome data in a subset of those same classrooms. In year 1 of the study, the research team will collect ECERS-3 data in 900 preschool classrooms (300 per state), collect CLASS Pre-K data in 120 of those same classrooms (40 per state), and conduct direct child assessments in fall and spring of the school year with 480 children in 120 classrooms (160 children in 40 classrooms per state). In the subset of classrooms where child assessments will occur, teachers will complete questionnaires to provide information about their educational background, training, and teaching experience. Teachers will also rate children's social skills. Parents of children in the child assessment subsample will complete questionnaires to provide information about demographic characteristics and children's health and wellness. In year 2, the researchers will conduct psychometric analyses to examine the scale items, validity and reliability of the ECERS-3. In year 3, they will disseminate the study findings to a range of audiences, researchers, early childhood practitioners and policy makers, administrators, and professional development providers.

Control Condition: There is no control condition for this study.

Key Measures: Primary measures include two classroom observation tools, the ECERS-3 and the CLASS-Pre-K. Direct child assessments include the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-4th edition, the Letter Word Identification subtest of the Woodcock-Johnson III, Tools for Early Assessment in Early Math, the Preschool Science Assessment/Lens on Science and the Head Toes Knees and Shoulders measure. Teachers will complete the Social Skills Improvement System for children in the child assessment sample. Parents will be asked to answer questions family demographic characteristics and the health and wellness of their children.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use confirmatory and exploratory factor analysis to test the structure of the scale. The researchers will assess predictive validity by examining associations between the ECERS-3 total score and subscale scores and child outcomes. The research team will test convergent validity using correlations of the total score and subscales with CLASS Pre-K dimensions. Finally, researchers will conduct item response theory analyses to examine the test items for each subscale.