Academic Achievement Outcomes from a Pre-K Family and School Intervention
Purpose: Ethnic minority students from schools in disadvantaged, urban neighborhoods are at high risk for problems in school including grade retention, academic underachievement, and school dropout. Prospective longitudinal studies indicate that behavior problems in early childhood, especially physical aggression, predict poor academic achievement. This suggests that prevention of aggression in early childhood may lead to higher academic attainment, yet experimental studies addressing this important education issue are lacking. In this project, researchers will conduct an efficacy follow-up study that considers whether a social/behavioral parent and teacher intervention delivered in pre-kindergarten, ParentCorps/TeacherCorps (PC/TC), leads to sustained improvements in behavior and academic achievement in second and third grade among children at high risk for school problems.
Project Activities: This study takes advantage of a large randomized controlled trial (RCT) funded by IES in 2005 that has evaluated the impact of PC/TC on trajectories of aggression from pre-kindergarten through kindergarten among 1,052 African-American children. Ten urban public elementary schools in two school districts in disadvantaged neighborhoods were randomized to intervention and control (typical practice) conditions, with four cohorts of students enrolled in the fall of pre-kindergarten. Sustained and robust effects on targeted parent and teacher mediators and aggressive behavior in the classroom have been found, with intervention effects on aggression in kindergarten strongest among children at highest risk for school problems. To date, there is strong evidence of the efficacy of this intervention in this sample, with larger effects for later cohorts and evidence of an increasing effect over time. In the present study, the research team will evaluate academic achievement in second and third grade for this group of children and determine whether PC/TC has differential effects for children at varying levels of risk based on aggression and school readiness test scores at entry to pre-kindergarten. In addition, the team will investigate whether there are sustained intervention effects on parent involvement in education in second grade, and to what extent intervention effects on trajectories of aggression and parent involvement account for intervention effects on academic achievement.
Products: Products include evidence of the impact of ParentCorps/TeacherCorps (PC/TC), a pre-kindergarten social/behavioral program for families and teachers, on later behavior and academic achievement of children at high risk for school problems. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.
Setting: This study takes place in 10 public elementary schools in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods in New York City.
Population: Participants include four cohorts totaling 1,052 second grade students who enrolled in the RCT when they were in pre-kindergarten. The majority of the students are African-American and Afro-Caribbean and from low-income families. The sample represents 74 percent of all students enrolled in pre-kindergarten in the 10 participating public schools during the four-year study enrollment period.
Intervention: ParentCorps/TeacherCorps (PC/TC) aims to improve parent and teacher behavior management practices and parent-teacher communication in order to promote parent involvement in education and prevent child aggression from pre-kindergarten through kindergarten. The universal intervention is hypothesized to have its strongest impact on children at highest risk for school problems (i.e., high aggression or low school readiness at entry into pre-kindergarten). The intervention was developed specifically for African-American and Latino students from low-income urban neighborhoods in collaboration with community and school representatives. ParentCorps includes a 13-session group series for parents and pre-kindergarten students delivered by university mental health professionals, teachers, and other school-based staff. Parents are taught to establish structure and routines for children; provide opportunities for positive parent-child interactions during non-directive play; use positive reinforcement to encourage compliance and social and behavioral competence; to selectively ignore mild misbehaviors; and to provide consistent, non-physical consequences for misbehavior (e.g., time out, loss of privileges). Parents are encouraged to set individual goals for their children and describe strategies for achieving these goals to important adults in their child’s life, including teachers and other caregivers. TeacherCorps includes professional development for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers and other school staff and individual consultation for teachers. The teacher component is designed to complement the parent component by promoting effective teacher behavior management practices in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms and to build and sustain effective communication between parents and teachers. Teachers are taught to use the same set of behavior management practices as parents, with modifications as needed for use in the classroom. Teachers also learn specific strategies for initiating early, positive communication with parents and for engaging parents in their child’s education and in the management and prevention of behavior problems.
Research Design and Methods: This is an efficacy follow-up study to evaluate long-term intervention effects on academic achievement and parent involvement in education. The study involves assessment of academic achievement and parent involvement in education in second and third grade for four cohorts of students in public schools who received the intervention in pre-kindergarten. Academic achievement will be assessed in second grade using individually administered, standardized achievement tests, school grades, and teacher ratings of achievement. In third grade, standardized state-wide achievement tests and school grades will also be assessed. Parent involvement in education will be evaluated in second grade via the teacher report.
Control Condition: Relevant business-as-usual practices were documented in the five control schools, which included workshops offered to parents of all elementary school students focused on topics such as nutrition and asthma. Structured parent-teacher communication was typically limited to three events throughout the school year: orientation at the beginning of the school year and parent-teacher conferences twice a year, typically for 5-10 minutes, with a focus on academic progress.
Key Measures: Key academic outcomes in this study are measured using the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement, Second Edition, Brief Form (KTEA-II, Brief), the NY State Standardized Test in Math and English Language Arts, school grades, and the Behavior Assessment System for Children-2. Parent involvement will be assessed with the Involvement Questionnaire.
Data Analytic Strategy: Intervention and control conditions will be compared with respect to academic achievement and parent involvement using tests that account for correlations due to clustering of students within classrooms and schools. These tests will be based on mixed effects models. Tests of whether baseline risk factors moderate the intervention effects and the estimation of the moderated effects will similarly be based on mixed effects models. Tests of whether changes in aggression and parent involvement (from pre-kindergarten through kindergarten) mediate any intervention effect on achievement in second and third grades will be based on mediation models that include trajectories of potential mediators and will similarly account for clustering.