This study was conducted in 18 classrooms in a low-income urban school with state-financed Abbott full-day preschool education.
In one school selected for the study, 7 classrooms on one floor were available for Tools of the Mind implementation and 11 classrooms on another floor were available for
the control condition. Teachers and assistants were randomly assigned to classrooms using a stratified assignment procedure, and then three- and four-year-old children
were randomly assigned to either Tools of the Mind curriculum classrooms or district curriculum classrooms. Poverty level, achievement, and minority status were similar
across intervention and comparison groups. Among the children sampled, 93 percent are Hispanic, and about 70 percent consider Spanish their primary home language.
Although the overall student attrition rate was more than 25 percent, and student consent after random assignment led to differential attrition, the post-attrition intervention
and comparison samples were equivalent on achievement pretests. After one year, 85 Tools of the Mind students and 117 comparison students remained in the sample.
Tools of the Mind aims to aid learning and development while emphasizing emergent literacy and self-regulation. The two main goals of the curriculum are to develop
underlying cognitive skills (such as self-regulation, deliberate memory, and focused attention) and to develop specific academic skills (such as symbolic thought, literacy,
and an understanding of math). Play is the leading activity for developing such skills and the curriculum emphasizes the teacher’s role in supporting the development of
mature intentional dramatic play. The study was conducted during the first year of program implementation of Tools of the Mind.
Control classrooms implemented the standard district-created curriculum, which was described as a full-day PreK balanced literacy curriculum with themes. In structured
observations of the control group, frequently observed activities were art projects that correlated with the “letter of the week,” free play, large group movement and/or music,
and such large group activities as story time. According to the study authors, although the control curriculum covered much of the same academic content and topics as
Tools of the Mind, there was greater emphasis on teacher-imposed control and less on children’s self-regulation.
For both pre- and post-tests, the authors administered Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III, Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised, Animal Pegs Subtest of
the Wechsler Preschool Primary Scale of Intelligence, and two subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson-Revised test (Applied Problems and Letter-Word Identification). Get Ready
to Read! screening tool was used only at post-test assessment. IDEA Oral Language Proficiency Test was administered for the subsample of Spanish-speaking children.
Problem Behaviors Scale of the Social Skills Rating System was also used in the study, but not included in this report because it was outside the scope of the Early Childhood
Education review. For a more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix A2.1–2.4.
Support for implementation
Teachers assigned to the Tools of the Mind group received four full days of curriculum training before the start of the school year. During the school year, they received
30-minute classroom visits approximately once a week from a Tools of the Mind trainer to address any difficulties they were having with the curriculum. In addition,
Tools of the Mind teachers received 1 half-day workshop and 5 one-hour lunchtime meetings to discuss aspects of the curriculum. Control group teachers received similar
amounts of training. They attended workshops on the already established district curriculum given by the district for the same amount of time.