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IES Grant

Title: Red Light, Purple Light! Evaluating a Self-Regulation Intervention for Children in Early Learning Settings
Center: NCER Year: 2021
Principal Investigator: McClelland, Megan Awardee: Oregon State University
Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2021 – 06/30/2026) Award Amount: $3,800,000
Type: Initial Efficacy Award Number: R305A210502

Co-Principal Investigators: Geldhof, John; Hatfield, Bridget; Li, Tao; Mashburn, Andrew; Schmitt, Sara; Tominey, Shauna

Purpose: Preschool is a critical time for the development of self-regulation, which is essential for children's long-term social and academic success. Developing and testing programs that help children develop self-regulation in preschool is critical to ensuring long-term success. This project will test the initial efficacy of Red Light, Purple Light (RLPL), a self-regulation intervention that was developed as part of an IES grant. The RLPL intervention is designed to promote children's school readiness and is implemented by early childhood educators in early learning settings. Researchers will examine if access to one of two versions of RLPL, (self-regulation [SR] or SR+ math/literacy [SR+]), compared to a wait-list control (WLC) condition relates to gains in children's self-regulation, math, and literacy skills in preschool and six months later.

Project Activities: Researchers will carry out a two-cohort Cluster Randomized Trial design (random assignment of preschool centers (N =110 classrooms total) to one of the intervention conditions (SR, n =36 classrooms), (SR+, n =36 classrooms), or a WLC group (n =38 classrooms). Children will be assessed at pre- and post-test on direct measures of self-regulation and executive function skills, math, and literacy. Fidelity of implementation will be collected along with a cost inventory survey and all associated intervention costs. Cost effectiveness analyses will be conducted to assess program efficiency at the student level to determine the relative value of the RLPL intervention. Self-regulation will be examined as a mechanism for intervention impacts on early academic achievement and vice versa. Differential effects will be tested based on moderating variables (baseline self-regulation, gender, dual language learner (DLL) status, race/ethnicity, Head Start status, implementation fidelity, dosage). Longer-term effects of the intervention will be tested in the fall of the following year. The project will test intervention effects at scale, compare two versions of the intervention, and identify the intervention approach most effective and cost efficient. Exploratory aims will examine which intervention approach works best for whom and in what context.

Products: Researchers will produce evidence as to the efficacy of two versions of the RLPL intervention (SR and SR+) with all accompanying materials (professional development workshop, intervention manual, classroom material kits, fidelity assessments. Each version of the intervention will be available for broad dissemination along with information about the costs and cost effectiveness of each intervention. Findings from this project will be dissemination to researchers and practitioners.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in rural and urban preschool programs and kindergarten classrooms in Oregon.

Sample: The research team will recruit a total of 880 3-to-5-year-old children in 110 preschool classrooms from several counties in Oregon. Approximately 30 percent of children will be Spanish- speaking dual language learners. The sample of teachers, children, and families will reflect the target population for the RLPL intervention in the Pacific Northwest United States.

Intervention: Red Light, Purple Light (RLPL) is a short-term intervention designed to promote self- regulation and school readiness. The RLPL classroom program consists of music and movement games that teachers implement twice a week over eight weeks (16 sessions total). The games are delivered in a large-group format in 15-20-minute sessions. Two versions of RLPL will be tested, one focused on self-regulation (SR) and one focused on self-regulation with math and literacy embedded (SR+). Both versions of the RLPL uses variations of the same early childhood games with enhanced self-regulation components. The SR+ version of the intervention integrates best practices to promote early math (counting, cardinality, and numeral knowledge) and literacy (print knowledge, phonological awareness, and oral language) into SR activities.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will use a two-cohort Cluster Randomized Trial design (random assignment of preschool classrooms with centers by 1) type of center (HS or non-HS) and 2) center size (number of classrooms)) to one of the intervention conditions (SR, n =36 classrooms; (SR+, n =36 classrooms) or a WLC group (n =38 classrooms) to evaluate the efficacy of the intervention. The sample (n= 880) will include an average of 8 children per class in 110 classrooms. In Year 1, the Implementation team will revise fidelity materials, confirm sites, and recruit children, families, and teachers. In Years 2-4, the Implementation team will administer the intervention, and provide implementation support, and the Evaluation team will randomly assign preschool classrooms to conditions and collect and manage data in two cohorts. Children will be pre-tested in the fall, teachers will implement RLPL in the winter, and children will be post-tested in the spring, and again six months later. In Year 5, the Evaluation team will analyze data, prepare data for public access, and conduct cost analyses. The Implementation and Evaluation teams will focus on broad dissemination of study findings.

Control Condition: Participating preschools use a variety of curriculum, but many (especially the Head Start programs) use Creative Curriculum. A wait-list control (WLC) group is included where WLC teachers will receive the intervention training the following year after the fall follow-up data collection.

Key Measures: The research team will measure language, self-regulation/executive function, and literacy using the following: Children's language (preLAS); self-regulation and executive function (Head- Toes-Knees-Shoulders-Revised, Dimensional Change Card Sorting, WJ Working Memory, Day- Night Stroop); math (Preschool Early Numeracy Skills, WJ Applied Problems); and literacy (WJ Letter-Word Identification, Alphabet Recognition). Fidelity measures include Learning Outcome Checklist (teacher-rated), observer Fidelity Checklist and Rubric. The research team will use a cost inventory survey to gain information about opportunity, capital, and other costs associated with intervention participation.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use multilevel structural equation models (MSEM) to account for nesting, school fixed effects, missing data, baseline scores and covariates to examine impacts and implementation of the RLPL intervention in the spring of preschool and six months later, along with mediators and moderators of the intervention. Alternative models will also be examined that account for fidelity and dosage to assess the maximum possible impact of program participation.

Cost Analysis: Cost analyses will include overall intervention cost and average intervention cost per child of implementing the RLPL intervention. Researchers will consider intervention costs as the cost to implement the intervention in early learning settings, therefore excluding costs incurred for research and evaluation purposes. They will apply the Consumer Price Index to adjust the annual cost to constant dollars and then sum to estimate the total cost of the program across years. The research team will conduct cost effectiveness analyses to assess program efficiency at the student level to determine the relative value of the RLPL intervention compared with the WLC group by calculating the Incremental Cost-Effectiveness Ratio (ICER). Researchers will report cost-effectiveness analyses findings by interpreting the ICER as the cost of additional investment in the intervention to gain one additional unit of improvement related to children's outcomes.

Related IES Projects: Red Light, Purple Light! Developing a Self-Regulation Intervention for Children at Risk for School Difficulty (R305A150196)