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IES Grant

Title: Increasing the Capacity of Early Childhood Education Programs to Use Data to Improve Implementation and Evaluation
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Cook, James Awardee: University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (9/1/2016 8/31/2018 Award Amount: $399,999
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H160052

Co-Principal Investigators: Ryan Kilmer (University of North Carolina, Charlotte), Jennifer Messinger (Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools)

Partners: University of North Carolina, Charlotte and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS)

Purpose: In this project, the partnership seeks to identify approaches to support prekindergarten (pre-k) instruction that improves students' academic and social-emotional skills. Specifically, the team will examine whether teachers can use data on preschoolers' social-emotional development to differentiate instruction and how coaching can help teachers accomplish such differentiation and implement a specific pre-k curriculum.

Partnership Activities: The partnership will conduct research to examine how data use and enhanced coaching can improve teachers' instruction and, subsequently, students' school readiness for kindergarten. The partnership will also help build CMS' capacity for collecting, tracking, and managing data electronically, as well as increasing teachers' and coaches' capacity to use data. In Year 1, the partners will document current coaching practices, examine whether and how teachers use feedback on students' social-emotional skills to differentiate instruction, and correlate use of feedback with student gains in academic and social-emotional assessments. In Year 2, the partners will pilot-test a model of enhanced, data-guided coaching and examine the associations between data use, coaching, and improved student outcomes.

Setting: This project will take place in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina.

Population/Sample: The sample contains approximately 50 schools, 180 teachers, 2,300 students and 13 coaches in the Bright Beginnings prekindergarten programs in CMS. Students in Bright Beginnings are four years old, and all have been determined insufficiently ready for kindergarten entry for kindergarten entry. Students are 6% White, 44% Black, 41% Latino, and 6% Asian. About one-third are English Language Learners, and one-tenth have a disability.

Initial Research: Study 1 will use an experimental design to examine the impacts of providing teachers with information on students' social-emotional skills. All teachers will complete a social-emotional assessment (Devereux Early Childhood Assessment for Preschoolers: DECA-P2) for each of their students about 4 weeks into the school year. The team will randomly assign coaches (and the teachers they work with) to either a treatment group that will receive the DECA-P2 data and suggestions for organizing and instructing students with similar scores, or a control group that will receive the DECA-P2 but not receive suggestions. Teachers will complete the DECA-P2 for each student again in May. In addition, another teacher or coach will administer the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) to all students at both the beginning and end of year. The partnership will survey teachers and coaches as to their use of instructional differentiation and, for the treatment group, use of the DECA-P2 in determining differentiation. The team will use analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) models to estimate the impact of the feedback about students' social-emotional skills on teachers' differentiation of instruction. In addition, they will use hierarchical linear models to estimate the impact of the feedback on the student outcomes (DECA-P2 and PPVT).

Study 2 will use a 4-group comparison design to explore the promise of an enhanced coaching model. The Study 1 treatment and control groups will be broken into two groups, apiece. From the Study 1 treatment group, two of the top performing treatment coaches will implement an enhanced coaching model with about 26 teachers. The model will include the social-emotional feedback used in Study 1 plus new supports for the specific curricula being used in pre-k (Opening the World of Learning and Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children). The other treatment coaches from Study 1 will continue providing the same support they provided and their teachers will continue to receive the same feedback. The Study 1 comparison group will be broken into two groups with one receiving the social-emotional feedback and the other not receiving it.

The team will use classroom observation to measure implementation of the two curricula used. The DECA-2 and PPVT will be used to measure student outcomes. Analyses include using hierarchical linear models to estimate the relationship of the enhanced coaching model on teacher implementation of the curricula and on the student outcomes.

Outcomes: The outcomes of the partnership will include

  • increased capacity of CMS to track and analyze data on pre-k students;
  • presentations, briefings, and publications on the value of providing feedback regarding students' social-emotional skills to coaches and teachers;
  • initial information on the promise of an enhanced coaching model; and
  • an application to the IES Education Research Grants Program (Development and Innovation research goal) to continue to refine data use and/or enhanced coaching in pre-k programs.