A Randomized Efficacy Trial of the Kids in Transition to School (KITS) Program to Improve the School Readiness of Children in Disadvantaged Communities
Co-Principal Investigators: Hyoun Kim, Phillip Fisher, and Cynthia Healey
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to conduct a randomized control trial of the Kids in Transition to School (KITS) program, an intervention to improve the early literacy, prosocial, emotional, and behavior regulation skills of at-risk children. Designed to support at-risk children and their families during the transition period between prekindergarten and kindergarten, the KITS program was developed to provide a high-intensity, short-term intervention that can be delivered to children before and during the transition to kindergarten. Two prior randomized control trials have demonstrated that the KITS program is effective at enhancing the school readiness skills of children in foster care and children with developmental disabilities and behavior problems. One of the two existing efficacy trials was funded through an IES Efficacy and Replication grant. The proposed study will extend the existing evidence base for the KITS program and evaluate the impact of the intervention with a sample of children and families from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Project Activities: In each of the first three years of the project, a new cohort of 80 children will participate in the study. For each cohort, children will be randomly assigned to the KITS program or a comparison condition. Researchers will implement the intervention, collect data, and conduct analyses to evaluate the effects of the KITS program on children's early literacy and social behavioral skills in kindergarten. The first two cohorts of children will be followed into first grade and longer-term outcomes will be examined.
Products: The products of this project will be evidence of the efficacy of the Kids in Transition to School (KITS) program for children from socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Peer-reviewed publications will also be produced.
Setting: The study will take place in an urban area in Oregon.
Sample: Study participants include approximately 240 children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and their families. The sample will include children who are transitioning from prekindergarten to kindergarten. The study participants will be recruited from communities where approximately 24 percent of families with children live below the federal poverty level and 85 percent of children attending the schools qualify for free and reduced lunch.
Intervention: The KITS program is an intensive, short-term intervention that is offered to children and their parents during the transition to kindergarten. The intervention targets several school readiness skills that are related to success in school. The KITS program includes 24 curriculum-based therapeutic playgroups for the children focused on developing their early literacy, social, and self-regulatory skills and eight parent workshops focused on parent involvement in early literacy and positive parenting practices. The intervention is delivered to children and parents in the summer prior to kindergarten entry and during the first two months of kindergarten. The children's playgroups occur twice a week during the summer and once a week during the fall. The parent workshops are two-hour sessions that occur once every two weeks. In addition to the playgroup and workshop sessions, the parents and children receive supplemental materials to provide additional exposure to the content covered during each session. These materials include weekly playgroup homework assignments, weekly Home-School Connection newsletters that outline what children are learning in the playgroup, and home practice activities for parents.
Research Design and Methods: In each of the first three years, a new cohort of 80 children and their parents will participate in the study. In each cohort, 80 children will be randomly assigned to the KITS program or a services-as-usual condition. For each cohort, the KITS program will be implemented during the summer before kindergarten entry and during the first two months of kindergarten. The children will participate in playgroup sessions and their parents will participate in parent workshops. In the first three years of the study, the researchers will obtain data from children, parents, teachers, and conduct observations. Four rounds of data collection will occur for all three cohorts: spring before kindergarten entry; immediately prior to kindergarten entry; a kindergarten fall assessment; and a kindergarten spring assessment. In years 3 and 4 of the study, a fifth round of data collection will occur for the first two cohorts of children in spring of first grade. Data analyses will be conducted to evaluate the impact of the KITS program on children's social and academic skills in kindergarten and first grade.
Control Condition: The KITS program will be compared to a services-as-usual group of children and families. The comparison group will continue to receive any services that they were receiving prior to their participation in the study.
Key Measures: In each year of the study, a variety of measures will be used to assess children's school readiness skills, school functioning, early school achievement, parental involvement in school, and parenting practices. The measures will include the following: direct assessments of children's early literacy and social-emotional skills prior to kindergarten and their literacy skills and social-emotional functioning during kindergarten and first grade; parent and teacher reports on child skills and behaviors; parental involvement in early literacy and school; parenting practices; direct classroom observations of child academic engaged time and social behaviors; and school records data on grades, office discipline referrals, special education services provided, and attendance. The researchers will also track the receipt of other services, including the type, amount, and frequency of any early educational, mental health, or medical services using the Early Learning Interview and the Service Utilization Interview. Observational data will be collected and checklists will be used to measure implementation fidelity of the core components of the KITS program.
Data Analytic Strategy: Analyses will be conducted to examine the effects of the intervention on children's early academic and social skills. Analyses will employ variable-centered (e.g., analysis of variance and regression) and person-centered (e.g., latent growth curve modeling) approaches. Multilevel latent variable modeling will be used to test how changes in hypothesized mediators affect longer-term outcomes and to explore whether outcomes vary depending on level of hypothesized moderators.