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IES Grant

Title: Fostering Productive Parent Engagement at School Entry
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Bierman, Karen L. Awardee: Pennsylvania State University
Program: Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (08/01/2020 – 07/31/2024) Award Amount: $3,298,915
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305A200436

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to test the efficacy of the GoPals Kindergarten Club intervention. GoPals is designed to address the needs of economically disadvantaged students living in rural communities by engaging their families in guided home learning activities and fostering positive family-school involvement. Children from low-income families often enter school with less social-emotional and cognitive school readiness than their more advantaged peers, fueling a socioeconomic gap in school attainment that grows over time. Although public investment in prekindergarten programs is designed to reduce these early socioeconomic disparities, fewer than half of the children in rural areas attend prekindergarten.

Project Activities: Researchers will carry out a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the efficacy of GoPals. As part of the RCT, they willcompare two delivery systems that vary in cost and intensity of support (mail/text/online delivery with or without home visits) and determine whether family characteristics moderate the impact of intervention and delivery system.

Products: Researchers will produce evidence as to the efficacy of GoPals, and information about the cost and cost-effectiveness of the intervention. They will disseminate their findings via conference proceedings and peer-reviewed publications. They will also generate a final dataset as required by the IES Public Access Policy.

Structured Abstract

Settings: Eight schools located in four rural school districts in four Appalachian counties in Pennsylvania will partner with the researchers. All of the districts serve a large proportion of economically disadvantaged students.

Sample: During the project, 360 families will participate. Anticipated demographics will reflect the rural communities served by participating schools (75 percent white, 5 percent black, 10 percent Latinx; 10 percent more than one race).

Intervention: This team previously developed the REDI-Parent [REDI-P] program which proved highly effective at promoting school readiness for children attending Head Start, demonstrating significant sustained effects evident through fifth grade. Subsequently, they developed the GoPals Kindergarten Club program that uses the same intervention methods and strategies as REDI-P but is organized as a scalable "stand alone" program designed for use by public school systems. Pilot-test results demonstrated feasibility and acceptability and yielded promising effects on key measures of school performance. GoPals provides families with guided home learning materials (interactive stories, parent-child activities) and brief video illustrations of useful parenting practices. Like REDI-P, intervention occurs for 12 weeks before and 6 weeks after the kindergarten transition.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will test the efficacy of the intervention via a rigorous randomized trial. The trial will include three conditions: (1) GoPals Club with standard delivery (e.g. via mail/text/on-line resources, (2) GoPals Club with standard delivery plus personalized coaching during home visits, and (3) an attention-control condition. Individual families will be randomized to condition. The researchers will collect multiple measures from parents, teachers, and children.

Control Condition: Control group families will receive an alternative set of standard home learning materials (e.g., commercially produced activity books and story books).

Key Measures: Researchers will collect multiple measures, including observations of parent-child interaction quality; parent ratings of program materials use, attitudes, and expectations; direct assessments of child social-emotional and cognitive skills; and teacher ratings of school adjustment (e.g., social competence, behavior problems, learning engagement, and academic performance). They will also collect pre-intervention and post-intervention measures, along with several forms of implementation data.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use hierarchical linear models to test intervention efficacy, with children nested within classrooms. Baseline child/family characteristics will serve as covariates. Analyses will also determine if family risk factors (child behavior problems, parental depression, low levels of parent education) predict implementation and moderate intervention impact.

Cost analyses: The researchers will analyze total costs per family separately for the two intervention conditions, including costs of personnel, training, materials, and delivery. They will calculate cost-effectiveness ratios for each outcome by dividing the cost by the estimated effect for each of the major outcome measures averaged across students in each of the two intervention conditions.