Preschool, Family, and Community among Mexican Immigrants
Co-Principal Investigator: Tama Leventhal (Tufts University)
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to identify mechanisms that are associated with Mexican immigrant families' selection of preschool programs for their children and examine how enrollment in preschool is related to children's school readiness skills. Children from Mexican immigrant families are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population and, unfortunately, have lower school readiness and subsequent achievement than their U.S.-born peers. Children from Mexican immigrant families are under-represented in early education programs, especially those of high quality, despite the potential value that such programs have for reducing the early school achievement gap. As state and federal governments seek to expand universal pre-K programs as a mechanism to enhance school readiness, research is needed to identify barriers to access, improve outreach programs for immigrant families and communities, and address the nature and quality of existing programs serving this population. Researchers will explore why Mexican immigrant children have less exposure to early education, beyond the obvious factors of poverty and language, and what can be done to increase their participation.
Project Activities: Researchers will use secondary data sources to explore the links between family and community characteristics, preschool enrollment, and school readiness for Mexican immigrant children. They will examine how enrollment is influenced by factors such as family need for early childhood services, family resources, cultural norms and preferences, and contextual opportunities and constraints in the community.
Products: The products of this project include preliminary evidence of potentially promising strategies and policies to increase Mexican immigrant children's enrollment in high quality preschool programs that may improve their school readiness skills. Researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications.
Setting: Researchers will draw data from three extant datasets, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), the community-based Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), and qualitative and observational data from the public pre-K program in the Austin Independent School District (AISD).
Sample: The ECLS-B dataset includes a nationally representative sample of children born in 2001. Approximately 6,200 children participated in four waves of data collection through kindergarten, 1,416 of whom were children of first or second generation Mexican-origin parents. The PHDCN dataset includes three waves of home interviews over six years with families sampled from 80 diverse Chicago neighborhoods, including 2,269 children (800 of whom were children of first or second generation Mexican-origin parents) who were 6 months or 3 years old in 1995. In 2011-2012, 64 pre-K and kindergarten classrooms (two-thirds bilingual) in ten AISD elementary schools were observed. Researchers conducted interviews with teachers in each classroom (50% White) and held five focus groups with 30 Mexican-origin mothers.
Intervention: There is no intervention in this project.
Research Design and Methods: Researchers will use secondary data to address two primary objectives: (1) to provide a quantitative estimate of the links among family and community selection mechanisms, preschool enrollment, and school readiness with special attention to diversity by acculturation, and (2) to examine Mexican immigrant parents' motivations for enrolling children in preschool and teachers' perceptions of such motivations using qualitative data from the AISD data set. The focal family/community selection mechanisms will include: necessity (i.e., needing preschool as child care); human capital considerations (i.e., viewing preschool as a support for children's future educational pathways); systemic connections (i.e., social networks and institutional programs within the community raising awareness of and access to preschool opportunities); and child elicitation (i.e., special skills or concerns increasing parents' or others' perceptions that children need preschool). In year 1, they will use ECLS-B and PHDCN data to examine different selection factors and associations with enrollment and children's school readiness skills. In year 2, they will code qualitative data from the AISD data and examine family-related processes that may influence preschool selection and enrollment decisions.
Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.
Key Measures: The ECLS-B data set includes parent report of preschool enrollment, teacher report of children's preschool language, the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R), a measure of classroom quality, and standardized measures of children's school readiness. The PHDCN data set includes parent reports, census data, and a community survey measure of family and community selection mechanisms. The AISD data set includes interviews, classroom observations conducted with the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), and for dual language classrooms, the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP).
Data Analytic Strategy: For the ECLS-B and PHDCN data sources, the researchers will use multi-level modeling in Mplus to examine selection mechanisms that are associated with preschool enrollment and children's school readiness skills. For the qualitative AISD data, the researchers will code transcripts and use the codes to create new variables to include in quantitative analyses, such as looking at possible moderators of associations between selection mechanisms, preschool enrollment, and child outcomes.