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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Early Childhood

January 2018


What does research say about the effectiveness of home visiting programs on the transition to kindergarten?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports on the effectiveness of home visiting programs on the transition to kindergarten. In particular, we focused on the transition from publicly funded prekindergarten programs to kindergarten. For details on the databases, sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of references and resources provided in this response, but offer this list to you for your information only.

Research References

Bierman, K. L., Heinrichs, B. S., Welsh, J. A., Nix, R. L., & Gest, S. D. (2017). Enriching preschool classrooms and home visits with evidence-based programming: Sustained benefits for low-income children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(2), 129–137. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Background: Growing up in poverty undermines healthy development, producing disparities in the cognitive and social-emotional skills that support early learning and mental health. Preschool and home-visiting interventions for low-income children have the potential to build early cognitive and social-emotional skills, reducing the disparities in school readiness that perpetuate the cycle of poverty. However, longitudinal research suggests that the gains low-income children make during preschool interventions often fade at school entry and disappear by early elementary school. Methods: In an effort to improve the benefits for low-income children, the REDI program enriched Head Start preschool classrooms (study one) and home visits (study two) with evidence-based programming, documenting positive intervention effects in two randomized trials. In this study, REDI participants were followed longitudinally, to evaluate the sustained impact of the classroom and home-visiting enrichments 3 years later, when children were in second grade. The combined sample included 556 children (55% European American, 25% African American, 19% Latino; 49% male): 288 children received the classroom intervention, 105 children received the classroom intervention plus the home-visiting intervention, and 173 children received usual practice Head Start. Results: The classroom intervention led to sustained benefits in social-emotional skills, improving second grade classroom participation, student–teacher relationships, social competence, and peer relations. The coordinated home-visiting intervention produced additional benefits in child mental health (perceived social competence and peer relations) and cognitive skills (reading skills, academic performance). Significant effects ranged from 25% to 48% of a standard deviation, representing important effects of small to moderate magnitude relative to usual practice Head Start. Conclusions: Preschool classroom and home-visiting programs for low-income children can be improved with the use of evidence-based programming, reducing disparities and promoting complementary benefits that sustain in elementary school.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Bierman, K. L., Welsh, J. A., Heinrichs, B. S., Nix, R. L., & Mathis, E. T. (2015). Helping Head Start parents promote their children’s kindergarten adjustment: The research-based developmentally informed parent program. Child Development, 86(6), 1877–1891. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Head Start enhances school readiness during preschool, but effects diminish after children transition into kindergarten. Designed to promote sustained gains, the Research-based Developmentally Informed (REDI) Parent program (REDI-P) provided home visits before and after the kindergarten transition, giving parents evidence-based learning games, interactive stories, and guided pretend play to use with their children. To evaluate impact, two hundred 4-year-old children in Head Start REDI classrooms were randomly assigned to REDI-P or a comparison condition (mail-home math games). Beyond the effects of the classroom program, REDI-P promoted significant improvements in child literacy skills, academic performance, self-directed learning, and social competence, demonstrating the utility of the approach in promoting gains in cognitive and social-emotional skills evident after the transition into kindergarten.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Coulton, C. (2005). Cuyahoga County Early Childhood Initiative evaluation: Phase II final report. Cleveland, OH: Center on Urban Poverty and Social Change. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Since mid-1999, a bold initiative has been underway in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to improve the well-being of the youngest members of the greater Cleveland community. A community-wide initiative targeting children from birth through age five and their families was launched in July 1999, and in the following 5 years demonstrated substantial success in developing a universal and comprehensive approach for supporting families with young children. The Cuyahoga County Early Childhood Initiative (ECI), renamed Invest in Children in late 2004, provides a powerful case example of how one urban community recognized the needs of its young children and their families and sought to address them in an ongoing, comprehensive, and multifaceted way. The main findings of the report include: (1) A community-wide network of services for young children and their families has been established, and the apparatus of county government has been altered to directly support and coordinate early childhood services; (2) More children under age six in Cuyahoga County are receiving needed services at earlier ages than ever before; (3) Children and their parents are beginning to show benefits from the services provided through the Initiative; (4) Efforts to deepen and extend the services, tailor them to individual needs, and assure continuing quality should continue; and (5) The public and private partners who established this Initiative have maintained their commitment for half a decade and recently recommitted to it, with a new strategic plan that outlines a continued focus on program improvement based on evaluation. The evaluation identified areas of ongoing challenge and recommendations to address these include: (1) Develop supplemental approaches to home-based strategies, involving individualized services tailored to caregiver characteristics, to engage (a) more at-risk families, and (b) family child care providers; (2) Develop a system to identify and intervene with families with a young child who lacks a consistent source of medical care (i.e., a medical home); (3) Promote quality improvement strategies for family child care and home visiting that include attracting qualified and motivated individuals to deliver services; (4) Continue supports and services for children with special needs; (5) Continue efforts to expand newborn home visiting beyond first time and teen parents; and (6) Advocate for high quality preschool programs and universal pre-kindergarten programs. Individual chapters contain appendices, footnotes and references.”

Grossman, L., Purses, T., O’Neill, A., Gelb, A., Ross, K., & Ughrin, C. (2016). SPARK RttT: Year two fidelity and implementation. Canton, OH: Stark Education Partnership. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) is a school readiness program for children ages three to five that assists families with preparing their children for kindergarten in the areas of reading, language, and social skills. Program completion is determined by the presentation and facilitation of a minimum of eight lessons taught sequentially. Additional screenings and referrals are also provided to families. Since 2003, SPARK has helped more than 5,300 Ohio families prepare and transition their children to kindergarten. Initially directed by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton, today the Early Childhood Resource Center (ECRC) manages the SPARK program ( In 2013, SPARK Ohio was awarded an Ohio Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. The SPARK Race to the Top (RttT) pilot sites and this Implementation and Fidelity Evaluation Report focus on 4-year olds in the program from Sandy Valley, Logan Elm, Mississinawa, Franklin Monroe, and Minerva. This report, similar to the 2014 Year One report, mirrors the methodology previously used by the former SPARK evaluator, Dr. Peter J. Leahy, to evaluate replication sites. In conducting those evaluations, Dr. Leahy wrote the SPARK Evaluation and Data Protocol Manual to identify relevant research questions. Research questions numbered in this document are drawn from the manual. Dr. Leahy’s team used these questions to develop survey instruments for SPARK program directors, supervisors, Parent Partners, and members of the Responsive Services Team, which are employed in both the Year One and Year Two evaluations. Data for this report comes from entries in the SPARK Management Information System (MIS), responses to survey instruments by SPARK program directors, supervisors, Parent Partners, and members of the Responsive Services Team, interviews with administrators, and focus groups with parents.”

Landry, S. H., Zucker, T. A., Williams, J. M., Merz, E. C., Guttentag, C. L., & Taylor, H. B. (2017). Improving school readiness of high-risk preschoolers: Combining high quality instructional strategies with responsive training for teachers and parents. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 40(3), 38–51. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This study evaluated whether the combination of two proven interventions, one in Head Start classrooms (The Early Education Model, TEEM) and one in the home (Play and Learning Strategies, PALS) resulted in enhanced effects on at-risk 3- to 5-year-old children’s school readiness skills when compared to either of these interventions alone. Teachers and parents were trained to use a responsive style and strategies that supported children’s school readiness skills with the goal of providing children consistency in responsive practices across the school and home environments. The study was conducted in 77 classrooms with teachers randomized to either the TEEM (n= 39) or No TEEM (i.e., control or business as usual, n = 38) conditions. Six to eight children in each classroom were randomly assigned to either have their parents receive PALS (n = 314; 210 after attrition) or to a No PALS condition (n = 309; 221 after attrition) resulting in four conditions: TEEM/PALS, TEEM/No PALS, No TEEM/PALS, and No TEEM/No PALS. Results showed greater gains in the TEEM teachers’ language and literacy instructional practices and sensitivity compared to control teachers, but there were few significant findings for child cognitive outcomes. Parents receiving PALS, as compared to those without PALS, showed greater increases across play and book reading contexts in numerous responsive behaviors linked to the attachment and socio-cultural theories. Children whose parents received PALS versus those whose parents did not showed greater gains in direct measures of print knowledge and self-regulation and in social and language skills observed during interactions with their parent. Interactive effects of TEEM plus PALS were seen for increased engagement in shared book reading but not for other cognitive or social outcomes.”

Loughlin-Presnal, J. E., & Bierman, K. L. (2017). Promoting parent academic expectations predicts improved school outcomes for low-income children entering kindergarten. Journal of School Psychology, 62, 67–80. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This study explored patterns of change in the REDI (Research-based Developmentally Informed) Parent program (REDI-P), designed to help parents support child learning at the transition into kindergarten. Participants were 200 prekindergarten children attending Head Start (55% European-American, 26% African American, 19% Latino, 56% male, Mage = 4.45 years, SD = 0.29) and their primary caregivers, who were randomized to a 16-session home-visiting intervention (REDI-P) or a control group. Extending beyond a prior study documenting intervention effects on parenting behaviors and child kindergarten outcomes, this study assessed the impact of REDI-P on parent academic expectations, and then explored the degree to which intervention gains in three areas of parenting (parent-child interactive reading, parent-child conversations, parent academic expectations) predicted child outcomes in kindergarten (controlling for baseline values and a set of child and family characteristics). Results showed that REDI-P promoted significant gains in parent academic expectations, which in turn mediated intervention gains in child emergent literacy skills and self-directed learning. Results suggest a need to attend to the beliefs parents hold about their child’s academic potential, as well as their behavioral support for child learning, when designing interventions to enhance the school success of children in low-income families.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Ma, X., Nelson, R. F., Shen, J., & Krenn, H. Y. (2015). Effects of preschool intervention strategies on school readiness in kindergarten. Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 14(1), 1–17. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Using hierarchical linear modeling, the present study aimed to examine whether targeted intervention strategies implemented individually during a preschool program exhibited any short-term and long-term effects on children’s school readiness in kindergarten, utilizing data gathered through the Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) initiative. Outcome measures included scales from the Preschool and Kindergarten Behavior Scales and Bracken Basic Concept Scales. The short-term effects highlighted the intervention strategy of age-appropriate well-designed learning materials that effectively excelled children in overall conceptual development. We found no long-term effects of any intervention strategy on school readiness (SPARK children did not exhibit any statistically significant gains in school readiness measures in kindergarten).”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Meyer, J. A., & Mann, M. B. (2006). Teachers’ perceptions of the benefits of home visits for early elementary children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(1), 93–97. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this study was to examine teachers’ perceptions of the benefits of home visitation in relation to children’s success in school from kindergarten to second grade. The participants were 26 early elementary (K-2) teachers in a rural, Midwestern school district. Participants completed a survey after a home visit at the beginning of school and again prior to the end of the year. Results of this descriptive study suggest that the benefit of home visits is a means of strengthening home school partnerships. Teachers perceive that home visits result in more positive relationships with children and their families. Further, the teachers believe that the visits lead to improved communication with the parents, better understanding of the child, and better understanding of the impact of the child’s home environment as it relates to school performance.

Meyer, J. A., Mann, M. B., & Becker, J. (2011). A five-year follow-up: Teachers’ perceptions of the benefits of home visits for early elementary children. Early Childhood Education Journal, 39(3), 191–196. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this study was to replicate previous research about teachers’ perceived benefits of home visits to determine if they remained stable. Furthermore, the investigation sought to find out whether home visits impacted variables often associated with improved school success (i.e., school attendance, academic performance, parent engagement). Participants were 29 kindergarten through second grade teachers in a rural, Midwestern school district who conducted home visits at the beginning of the school year. Seventeen of the teachers participated in the earlier study. Revised surveys were completed. Results are consistent with those of the previous study. Specifically, teachers reported these positive effects: beneficial relationships and better communication with parents, more appreciation of the influence of the child’s home environment related to school performance, and a better understanding the child’s behavior in school. In addition, teachers identified a connection between the home visits and variables related to school success. Thus, teachers’ perceptions reinforced the importance of conducting home visits.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Nievar, M. A., & Fitzgerald, H. E. (2005). A successful model for home visiting in a high-risk community. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Center for Parent Education, Denton, TX. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The goal of the Success By Six program was to provide seamless, universal services to young children in a rural county in order to prepare them for a successful kindergarten experience. The process evaluation describes the implementation of interventions in the community and collaborations of community agencies. This rural community faced a number of challenges in implementing programs for young children, such as high levels of community risk factors, language and cultural barriers, and difficulties with access and communication. A quantitative evaluation of a home visiting program, a part of Success By Six, analyzes data from a control group who pretested but did not enroll in the program (n = 404) and program participants who received at least seven home visits (n = 196). Developmental assessments were conducted by professionally trained supervisors of the home visiting program. Assessments indicated that children in the home visiting program generally out-performed those who did not receive the program. Comparisons of groups by risk factors at intake indicated no significant difference between the two groups. The history of community involvement and implementation of a successful home visiting program may be of interest to other community agencies, particularly those who have similar barriers to parental involvement in their children’s education.”

Rhea, A., Baenen, N., & Paeplow, C. (2012). Project enlightenment evaluation, 2011-12. Eye on Evaluation. D&A Report No. 12.11. Cary, NC: Wake County Public School System. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Project Enlightenment, part of the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), has been providing services to children ages birth through 5 years, their parents, and teachers in childcare and preschool settings since 1969. With a local and grant funded budget of just over 2 million dollars, staff members served about 2,400 children in 2011-12. The number of children impacted increases considerably when siblings and students of the teachers served are included. The overall goal of Project Enlightenment is to prepare children to be successful in kindergarten. The prevention and intervention services available through Project Enlightenment are more comprehensive than those identified within other large school systems. All the districts that were contacted provide developmental screenings. Beyond this, Project Enlightenment provides teacher parent consultations and workshops, parent training via home visits, kindergarten readiness activities, and parent counseling. It also has an onsite parent teacher resource center and two preschool classrooms, one of which is a WCPSS Title I Pre-K classroom. Survey results show that parents and teachers are highly satisfied with the services provided. Analyses on small samples of children served suggest some short-term improvements in children’s areas of need. The findings, which cannot be generalized due to the limited samples, also show some positive impact on their kindergarten success. Further evaluation is needed on the long-term success of the service components. Recommendations to staff include strengthening goal setting, adjusting data management systems, modifying service delivery as appropriate, and exploring new public outreach and screening opportunities.”

Schull, C. P., & Anderson, E. A. (2008). The effect of home visiting and home safety on children’s school readiness. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 16(3), 313–324. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “One hundred and sixty-four children from a rural county in the state of Maryland, USA, were followed longitudinally from birth until kindergarten entry, tracking their participation in a home visiting program designed to enhance parent child interaction and school readiness. Results suggest that duration of home visiting had a positive, direct effect on home safety and parental knowledge of infant development. Home safety had a positive direct effect on overall school readiness regarding personal and social competence, language and literacy, mathematics and physical health and development, although the effect size for mathematics was smallest. Home visiting duration using Parents as Teachers (PAT) had an indirect effect on school readiness through home safety, suggesting that as families receive more direction on ways to promote positive learning outcomes, home safety scores rise and school readiness scores increase. Implications for program and policy development including universal services are discussed.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Additional Organizations to Consult

National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) –

From the website: “The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) conducts academic research to inform policy supporting high-quality, early education for all young children. Such education promotes the physical, cognitive and social development needed for children to succeed in school and later life. NIEER provides independent, researchbased analysis and technical assistance to policymakers, journalists, researchers, and educators.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “transition to kindergarten” home visit

  • “transition” “kindergarten” “home visit”

  • “transition” “home visit” “Early Childhood Education”

  • “home visit” “kindergarten”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Region) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.