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Third National Even Start Evaluation: Follow-Up Findings From the Experimental Design Study
NCEE 2005-3002
December 2004

Child Outcome Measures

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. The PPVT-III (Dunn & Dunn, 1997) measures listening comprehension for spoken words and is a good short test of general verbal ability. The word knowledge assessed by the PPVT is called "receptive vocabulary," to differentiate it from the more active vocabulary skills required to formally define a word or use it appropriately in a sentence. The PPVT was administered to all children in the EDS who were 2.5 years of age and older, unless the child's parent objected and insisted that the TVIP (Spanish version of the PPVT) be administered. The PPVT assesses children's knowledge of the meaning of words by asking them to say or indicate by pointing which of four pictures best shows the meaning of a word that is said aloud by the examiner. A series of words is presented, ranging from easy to difficult for children of a given age, each accompanied by a plate consisting of four line drawings. The test is suitable for ages from 2.5 years through adulthood and has recently established age norms based on a national sample of 2,725 children and adults tested at 240 sites across the nation.

The PPVT-III was extensively revised from earlier versions. Administration procedures were modified to permit easier testing and more accurate scoring. New drawings were added and dated illustrations dropped to achieve better gender and ethnic balance. Test items that showed statistical bias by race or ethnicity, gender, or region were deleted from the item pool prior to standardization. Research by critics of earlier versions of the PPVT shows no racial or economic bias (Washington & Craig, 1999).

Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery (Revised). The most recent edition of the WJ-R (Woodcock & Mather, 1989, 1990) at the time of the EDS data collection is a carefully constructed, newly-normed, individually-administered test battery that is designed to assess the intellectual and academic development of individuals from preschool through adulthood. Each of the 41 WJ-R subtests requires about 5 minutes to complete, is designed to be administered separately or in combination with other subtests, and has an internal consistency reliability of .90 or higher. In the EDS, four subtests of the WJ-R were administered to children who were older than 2.5 but less than 4.0 years of age. These include three subtests used in the Head Start FACES study: the Letter-Word Identification, Dictation and Applied Problems subtests which constitute the "Early Development—Skills" cluster, according to the test developers, and thus provide a quick screening of broad achievement. In addition, the Incomplete Words subtest was administered to provide information on phonemic awareness. Eight subtests were administered to children who were 4.0 years of age and older. These include the four subtests used for younger children, as well as four subtests which focus on reading skills (Sound Blending, Word Attack, Passage Comprehension, and Reading Vocabulary).

  • Letter-Word Identification: The first five Letter-Word Identification items involve symbolic learning, or the ability to match a rebus (pictographic representation of a word) with an actual picture of the object. The remaining items measure reading identification skills in identifying isolated letters and words that appear in large type.
  • Dictation: The first six items in this subtest measure prewriting skills such as drawing lines and copying letters. The remaining items measure the child's skill in providing written responses when asked to write specific capital or lower-case letters of the alphabet. Later parts of the subtest ask for writing of specific words and phrases, punctuation, and capitalization.
  • Applied Problems: This subtest measures skill in analyzing and solving practical problems in mathematics. In order to solve the problems, the child must recognize the procedure to be followed and then perform relatively simple counting or addition or subtraction operations. Because many of the problems include extraneous stimuli or information, the child must also decide which data to include in the count or calculation.
  • Incomplete Words: This is a tape-recorded test that measures auditory closure. After hearing a recorded word that has one or more phonemes missing, the subject identifies the complete word. This test primarily measures auditory processing.
  • Sound Blending: This test measures the ability to integrate and then say whole words after hearing parts (syllables and/or phonemes) of the words. An audiotape is used to present word parts in their proper order. The test measures auditory processing.
  • Word Attack: This measures the subject's skill in applying phonic and structural analysis skills to the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words. The subject reads aloud letter combinations that are linguistically logical but that form nonsense words or low-frequency words in English (or Spanish).
  • Passage Comprehension: The first four items in this subtest are presented in a multiple-choice format requiring the subject to point to the picture represented by a phrase. The remaining items measure skill in reading a short passage and identifying a missing key word. The task requires the child to state a word that would be appropriate in the context of the passage. The child exercises a variety of comprehension and vocabulary skills.
  • Reading Vocabulary: This subtest measures skill in reading words that supply appropriate meanings. In Part A: Synonyms, the subject must state a word similar in meaning to the word presented. In Part B: Antonyms, the subject must state a word that is opposite in meaning to the word presented. Only one-word responses are acceptable.

Story & Print Concepts. The Story & Print Concepts task is an adaptation of earlier prereading assessment procedures developed by Teale (1986) and Mason (1992). Administered to children in the EDS who were 2.5 years of age and older, the child is handed a children's storybook upside down and backwards. The assessor notes whether the child turns it around to put the book upright with the front cover on top. Then the child is asked to identify where the name of the book is written and where the material to be read begins, and in what direction the reading proceeds. The assessor reads the story to the child and asks basic questions about both the content of the story and the mechanics of reading. Research has found that children who experience frequent story reading by their parents or teachers are more likely to be able to answer such questions.

Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales—Communication Domain (Sparrow, Bella & Cicchetti, 1984). The Vineland is a comprehensive set of rating scales designed for use by teachers and parents. The Vineland has national norms. The Communication Domain from the Classroom Edition of the Vineland was used in the EDS. It takes about 10 minutes to administer and consists of 63 items that provide an assessment of literacy functioning in three areas—expressive, receptive, and written skills. Because teachers need time to become familiar with the children in their classroom, the Vineland was completed only as a posttest measure at the end of the school year. Teachers completed the Vineland for all Even Start and control group children who were 3.0 years of age and older and in a formal preschool or school-based setting.

Parent Report of Child Literacy. The ESPIRS and the EDS parent interview contain items designed to obtain parent ratings of their child's literacy performance. Available in English and Spanish, these items are based on literacy competencies identified in recent research on reading by the National Research Council (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998), the NAEYC (1998), and the NICHD (Lyon, 1999). The items were used to construct the following variables for Even Start and control children:

  • Child knows alphabet (age 2 years, 7 months and older): Has value of 1 if parent reports that child knows all alphabet letters or can say/sing the entire alphabet; has value of 0 otherwise.
  • Child counts to 100 or more (age 2 years, 7 months and older): Has value of 1 if parent reports that child can count to 100 or more; has value of 0 otherwise.
  • Child knows colors (age 2 years, 7 months and older): Has value of 1 if parent reports that child knows colors red, yellow, blue, green by name; has value of 0 otherwise.
  • Extent to which child reads (age less than 2 years, 6 months): Has values from 0-4. Value increases by 1 if child pretends to read, has memorized book, pretends to read to someone else, has favorite book.
  • Extent to which child reads (age 2 years, 7 months and older): Has values from 0-9. Value increases by 1 if child pretends to read, reads for enjoyment, has memorized book, has favorite book, can follow written directions, can describe something learned through reading, rereads sentences, reads/pretends to read to someone else, recognizes own first name in writing/print
  • Age-appropriate writing skills (all children): Has values from 0-2. Value increases by 1 if child pretends to write, writes some letters of the alphabet.
  • Child knowledge of print concepts (age 2 years, 7 months – 4 years, 11 months): Has values from 0-9. Value increases by 1 if child shows front of book, page where you start, where to start on page, a picture, a word, last letter in a word, a number, a period, a question

Social Skills Rating System (SSRS). The SSRS (Gresham & Elliot, 1990), available in English, is designed for teachers to use in rating child competencies and behaviors. Because teachers should not complete these scales until they have spent a substantial amount of time with a child, we used the SSRS scales only as a posttest. As with the Vineland scales, we collected the SSRS for all Even Start and control group children who were 3.0 years of age and older and in a formal preschool or school-based setting. The SSRS has been widely used and nationally normed. Standard scores and percentile ranks are available for each scale.

  • Problem behaviors: This scale consists of 18 items (10 for the preschool version) that ask the teacher to rate the child on a three-point scale (never, sometimes, very often). The items measure internalizing behaviors (acting sad or lonely), externalizing behaviors (acting out) and hyperactivity (not in the preschool version).
  • Social skills: This scale consists of 30 items that ask the teacher to rate the child on a three-point scale (never, sometimes, very often). The items measure cooperation, assertion and self-control.