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IES Grant

Title: Enhancing the Quality of Instruction in 4-Year-Old Kindergarten
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Grodsky, Eric Awardee: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (09/01/2018–08/31/2020) Award Amount: $400,000
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H180053

Co-Principal Investigator: Eklund, Kate; Vaade, Beth; Witthuhn, Culleen

Partner Institutions: Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (WCER)

Purpose: In Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), achievement gaps between students of different race/ethnicity and social status persist across the primary, middle, and secondary school years. MMSD has made reducing educational inequality a key goal, and will partner with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (WCER) to form the Madison Education Partnership (MEP).The partners will work together to enhance the quality of four-year-old Kindergarten (4K) instruction by improving instructional practices and developing and piloting a professional development program for district teachers. The team will enrich its understanding of challenges in 4K education, develop approaches to addressing those challenges, and enhance equality of educational opportunity.

Partnership Activities: MMSD and WCER formed a research practice partnership, the MEP, in the summer of 2016. MEP's organizational structure includes PIs and co-directors from both organizations, a steering committee of three members from each organization, and an advisory group that draws from each organization and the larger community. MEP will co-construct research questions, collaborate on the design and production of research intended to answer those questions, and jointly oversee field-initiated projects that are responsive to the needs and interests of both sides of the partnership. Over the 2 years of the study, the partners will 1) assess the quality of instruction and instructional environments in 20 4K classrooms serving children in MMSD using classroom observations; 2) gain an understanding of teachers' professional development experiences and perceived needs through focus groups with six groups of 4K teachers; 3) outline the opportunities for instructional improvement in MMSD 4K classrooms by producing a report that combines data from the first two study components; 4) design a program of professional development to address the needs that emerge through collaboration with teachers; and 5) pilot the professional development program in the district.

Setting: This project will take place in Wisconsin, in MMSD 4K classrooms.

Population/Sample: This project will focus on children and teachers in the MMSD 4K program. The sample will include 20 classrooms and 30 teachers from school-based, Head Start, and non-Head Start (community) centers.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will code data and conduct descriptive analyses of the classroom observations and focus group data. They will compare teachers' reports of their professional development (PD) needs with results from the classroom observations. Based on these analyses, the partners will produce a report outlining the PD needs of 4K teachers in MMSD.

Outcomes: The partnership will result in executive summaries to MMSD administrators, practitioners, and interested community organizations that contain key findings and policy recommendations. The partners will also disseminate findings and policy recommendations in public presentations and discussions with practitioners, policymakers, and researchers, conference presentations, and peer-reviewed publications to the broader educational research community.

Related Projects: Bringing Evidence Based Practices to Practitioners in Wisconsin (R372A150031)