Efficacy Follow-up of ParentCorps: Long-term Impact of Early Childhood Family-Focused Intervention on Academic Achievement
Purpose: The well-documented achievement gap for low-income, minority children is already present in kindergarten, with students who do not perform at grade level early on unlikely to catch up. ParentCorps is a family-focused, school-based intervention that aims to buffer the adverse effects of poverty on child development by engaging and supporting parents and teachers at school entry. An IES-funded cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) compared schools randomly assigned to implement ParentCorps to those randomly assigned to implement education-as-usual, and evaluated pre-kindergarten and kindergarten outcomes in Black and Latino low-income students (enrolled in cohorts across four school years). In kindergarten, there was a significant impact on achievement test scores in reading and math, academic performance ratings, parent involvement in education, conduct problems and physical health. Preliminary findings from IES and NIH follow-up studies indicate maintenance of effects through second grade. In both kindergarten and second grade, impacts on achievement were more pronounced among students in later RCT study cohorts, suggesting cumulative benefits from multiple years of implementation in the schools. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the long-term impact of the prekindergarten/kindergarten intervention on academic achievement in upper elementary school and at the transition to middle school.
Project Activities: In this efficacy follow-up study, researchers will utilize centrally managed student record data available for all NYC public school students to evaluate the impact of ParentCorps on student outcomes in third through fifth grade and as students make the transition into middle school at sixth grade. Record data on all RCT participants who remain in NYC schools (~98 percent of the study participants) will be complemented by more comprehensive assessments of a subset of fifth grade students (those in the last two cohorts) who are still in the study schools. Researchers will address a range of key student outcomes and consider moderators and mediators of ParentCorps impact to further confirm or refine the theory of change, complement ongoing studies of implementation supports needed for future scale-up, and extend the evidence base for the program.
Products: The products of this project will be evidence of the long-term impact of a pre-kindergarten/kindergarten intervention, ParentCorps, on the academic achievement of low-income, Black and Latino children as they complete elementary school and enter middle school. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.
Setting: This study will take place in ten public elementary schools with pre-kindergarten programs in New York City. These schools serve low-income and minority students.
Sample: All students who participated in the RCT (N=1050) and are still enrolled in NYC public schools (~98 percent) are eligible for this study. The majority of students are Black or Latino and low-income. The RCT sample included 88% of the pre-kindergarten student population in the study schools from 2005-2010 (four cohorts enrolled over four years). Students enrolled into the study as part of the third and fourth cohorts and who remain in study schools (approximately 342 students) will also be recruited for new data collection in fifth grade.
Intervention: ParentCorps was developed specifically for Black and Latino students from low-income urban neighborhoods in collaboration with community and school representatives. The family component of 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 child and to describe strategies for achieving these goals to important adults in their child’s life, including teachers and other caregivers. The teacher component of ParentCorps 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: In this three-year efficacy follow-up study, the researchers will locate and re-consent students who enrolled in the RCT as part of the third and fourth cohorts of students when they are in the fifth grade for more comprehensive data collection, including individually-administered achievement tests and teacher reports. NYC Department of Education record data are available for participants in all four cohorts who remain in NYC schools. The team will conduct analyses of main effects and will also explore the mechanisms by which ParentCorps achieves effects by examining whether impact increases with year of school implementation (i.e., cohort) or level of family participation in ParentCorps (i.e., number of sessions attended). Early improvements in student outcomes will be considered as a potential mediator of long-term intervention effects. The team will also investigate potential moderators of effects, including cohort, gender, baseline school readiness test scores (the DIAL), student self-regulation, and parent involvement. School-level factors available through NYC DOE archival data on the elementary and middle schools attended by study participants (e.g., student demographics and achievement, principal/school performance ratings, and the annual NYC DOE School Survey completed by parents, teachers and students) will be used to characterize the schools into which study participants transition and consider whether these school-level characteristics predict middle school success differentially in the intervention and control conditions.
Control Condition: In the control condition, students receive standard classroom practices in place at the school.
Key Measures: Measures will be collected from NYC DOE archival records for all participants who still remain in NYC schools (~98 percent of the original sample of 1050 students), including the New York State Standardized Test in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math in third through sixth grade, course grades in English, Math, Science and Social Studies in sixth grade, and school absences and retention from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Measures collected in schools include the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement, Second Edition, Brief Edition (KTEA-II) and teacher ratings of parent involvement (the Involve) and students’ conduct problems (the New York Teacher Rating Scale) in fifth grade for students enrolled into the study as part of the third and fourth cohorts. Data collected as part of the earlier IES-funded RCT and follow-up study include kindergarten and second grade KTEA scores and teacher rating data in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first and second grade for all four cohorts.
Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will conduct preliminary analyses to address predictors of overall and differential attrition. For students with partially missing outcome data, researchers will use a multiple imputation strategy. Researchers will also use a restricted maximum likelihood estimation of mixed effect models to determine the impact of ParentCorps on academic achievement, parent involvement in education, conduct problems, and school absences in elementary school (pre-kindergarten through fifth grade). To determine the impact of ParentCorps on the transition to middle school as measured through academic achievement and school absences, researchers will use a similar multilevel approach with restricted maximum likelihood estimation with mixed effect models.