Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Examining the Cost-effectiveness of Continuous Improvement Models for Preschool Teachers: Balancing PD Structures to Match Teacher Need
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Crawford, April Awardee: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2018 - 06/30/2023) Award Amount: $3,299,982
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A180406

Co-Principal Investigator: Assel, Michael; Hsu, Hsien-Yuan; Landry, Susan; Zucker, Tricia

Purpose: The goal of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of a statewide professional development (PD) program called Texas School Ready (TSR) that has been utilized in three IES-funded randomized control trials and other experimental studies. In this replication study, researchers will implement three contrasting professional development approaches (guided self-study, facilitated professional learning communities, and remote coaching), which represent routine and scalable practice using widely available resources and evaluate the efficacy and cost effectiveness of each approach. All public pre-K programs in Texas (including public school pre-K, Head Start) have free access to the intervention's digital tools via a state-supported technology platform. By testing the efficacy of the intervention under contrasting approaches, researchers will be able to provide these various programs with research-driven guidance for implementing the tools in cost-effective ways that maximize their impact while also taking into account local needs and constraints.

Project Activities: Researchers will evaluate the impact of three PD approaches on preschool teachers' beliefs, knowledge, and instructional practices and children's academic and social skills. They will recruit and randomly assign 440 public prekindergarten classrooms to one of four conditions. Teachers in the treatment group will receive one of three PD approaches. Researchers will collect data from teachers and children and conduct classroom observations as well as evaluate the cost effectiveness of the PD approaches.

Products: Researchers will produce evidence of the efficacy of three PD approaches for improving teacher practices and child outcomes, information about the cost-effectiveness of the PD approaches, and produce peer-reviewed publications. They will also prepare reports to share information with collaborating districts each year of the project and disseminate study findings to parents, teachers, school administrators, and state and regional education agencies.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in public schools serving primarily low-income students in several regions across Texas representing urban and rural locations.

Sample: The sample will include 440 pre-K classrooms and teachers and 2,200 students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Intervention: The TSR suite of PD resources includes online courses, activities, and progress monitoring tools that provide a framework for implementing research-based best practices that builds teacher knowledge about responsiveness and practices to increase students' school readiness in language, literacy, math, cognition, and social/emotional skills; and encourages data-based instruction that matches students' assessed needs with supplemental classroom activity resources. The TSR continuous improvement process includes 12 cycles of goal-setting, planning, and reflective assessment to break down the complex task of effective teaching into discrete behaviors. Teachers engage in ongoing practice and learning over time via videotaped practice activities and respond to guided reflection prompts where they reflect on practice, compare behaviors with exemplar demonstrations, and set goals for continuous improvement

Three contrasting approaches to TSR PD delivery will be implemented across 12 continuous improvement cycles.

Intervention group teachers will participate in one of three PD approaches:

  1. Guided self-studythat includes reflection, action planning, and practice;
  2. Facilitated professional learning communities (PLC)that diversifies feedback; or
  3. Remote coachingthat allows for highly individualized feedback.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will conduct this study over a five-year period. They will use a four cohort design to conduct a cluster randomized trial to evaluate the efficacy of the TSR PD program approaches. For each cohort, they will recruit and randomly assign classrooms/teachers to one of four conditions (guided self-study, PLC, remote coaching, or BAU), resulting in a total of 110 teachers per condition across the four years. In Years 1-4, the research team will implement the three TSR PD approaches, and collect data from 440 classrooms/teachers and 5 children per classroom in fall and spring of each school year. In Year 5, researchers will conduct data analysis using all four years of data and disseminate study findings.

Control Condition: In the business-as-usual condition, teachers will have access to PD resources but will not participate in target PD approaches (i.e., continuous improvement cycles through guided self-study, PLC, coaching).

Key Measures: Researchers will assess teacher growth in observed instructional practices, efficacy, and beliefs about teaching at the beginning and end of the pre-K year (e.g., Teacher Behaviors Rating Scales, Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation, Teacher Efficacy Scale). The will administer child assessments to evaluate a range of key literacy and math skills at the beginning and end of the pre-K year (e.g., Preschool Language Scale-5, Test of Preschool Early Literacy). Teachers will complete the Social Competence and Behavior Evaluation-Short Form to provide information about children's social skills.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use hierarchical linear modeling to analyze the data. They will conduct analyses to evaluate the effectiveness of three PD approaches for improving teacher outcomes. For child outcomes, the research team will conduct analyses to determine if the effect of the intervention on child outcomes is mediated by its effects on teacher behavior, and if the effects of the intervention on teacher's behavior are mediated by effects on teacher reports of reflectiveness and teaching beliefs. Cost-effectiveness will be evaluated by the effect sizes of the three approaches, calculated as Cohen's d.

Related IES Projects:
Improving School Readiness of High Risk Preschoolers: Combining High Quality Instructional Strategies with Responsive Training for Teachers and Parents (R305A090212)
Internet Implementation of Empirically-Supported Interventions that can be Remotely Delivered in Authentic Preschool Programs for Mothers and Teachers: Evaluation of Direct Child and Teacher Outcomes (R305A140386)
Scalable Approaches for Preparing Early Childhood Teachers: Identifying Costs and Effectiveness of Evidence Based Approaches to Coaching (R305A140378)