An Efficacy Trial of the HighScope Preschool Curriculum (HSPC)
Co-Principal Investigator: Kathryn Drummond
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to evaluate the impact of the HighScope Preschool Curriculum (HSPC) on child, teacher, and classroom outcomes in preschool programs serving children from low-income backgrounds. High quality early childhood education experiences can have a positive and lasting impact on children's development and school readiness skills, particularly for children from low-income families. It is important to examine questions about the efficacy of preschool curriculum because curriculum is a key component of program quality. Although HSPC was used in the historic HighScope Perry Preschool Program, the linkage between HSPC and child outcomes has not been evaluated in the current early childhood context or by an external evaluator. This project will include an independent and rigorous evaluation of HSPC. The researchers will evaluate the efficacy of the curriculum, examine how the curriculum is implemented, and determine the mechanisms through which HSPC affects child outcomes. They will evaluate the impact of HSPC on children's pre-academic and social behavioral skills at the end of preschool and on early indicators of school achievement at the end of kindergarten.
Project Activities: The researchers will evaluate the efficacy of a fully developed, widely used, comprehensive early childhood curriculum using a randomized trial. They will randomly assign 100 preschool centers to treatment and control conditions. Teachers in the treatment group will receive training and mentoring support to implement HSPC. Researchers will conduct classroom observations, collect data from children and teachers, and conduct analyses to evaluate the impact of the intervention on child outcomes. They will also conduct a cost analysis.
Products: The outcomes of the project will include evidence of the efficacy of the HSPC for preschool-aged children enrolled in targeted preschool programs in South Carolina. Researchers will also produce peer-reviewed publications.
Setting: This study will take place with 100 preschool centers in South Carolina's state-funded, school-based prekindergarten programs and Head Start programs.
Sample: Study participants will include 400 preschool teachers (lead and assistant) and 1,600 children from low-income backgrounds. The sample will include primarily White and African-American children. Approximately 100 program administrators from the preschool centers will also participate in the study.
Intervention: The intervention will include the curriculum, 20 days of training for teachers and teaching assistants in year 1 and two coaching sessions for lead teachers in year 2. The HSPC was originally developed 45 years ago. It is a comprehensive curriculum framework with five core principles: active learning, adult-child interactions, appropriate learning environment, consistent daily routines, and child assessment. Teachers receive training to support children's learning in eight content areas: approaches to learning; social/emotional development; physical development/health; language, literacy, communication; mathematics; creative arts; science and technology; and social studies.
Research Design and Methods: Researchers will conduct this study over a four year period. In Year 1, the researchers will recruit and randomly assign preschool centers to treatment and control conditions. They will collect baseline data from teachers and conduct classroom observations in treatment and control classrooms. Teachers in the treatment group will receive training to implement HSPC. In Year 2, teachers in the treatment group will continue to implement HSPC. Researchers will recruit and randomly select children from treatment and control classrooms for direct child assessments. They will collect pre-and post-test data during the preschool year. In year 3, researchers will follow children into kindergarten and collect teacher-report and school records data to examine the impact of HSPC on children's early school achievement at the end of kindergarten. In Year 4, researchers will conduct analyses to evaluate curriculum impacts, examine effects mediated through classroom quality or HSPC-aligned teaching practices, conduct a cost analysis, and disseminate study findings. Teachers in the control group will receive training and support to implement HSPC in their classrooms.
Control Condition: In the business-as-usual control condition, most of the centers will continue to use the Creative Curriculum, a comprehensive preschool curriculum.
Key Measures: Primary measures include direct assessments of child outcomes, teacher-report, classroom observations, and school records data. Direct assessments will include the Applied Problems, Letter-Word Identification, and Spelling subscales of the Woodcock Johnson III Normative Update Tests of Achievement, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Fourth Edition, the Pencil Tapping Task, and the Balance Beam Task. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System will be used to measure classroom quality. Teachers will complete the Preschool Learning Behaviors Scale, the South Carolina Readiness Assessment, and the Teacher Report of School Accomplishments. Fidelity of implementation measures will include the Program Quality Assessment observation tool, a HighScope measure, teacher surveys, professional development records, and training observations. The state school report card ratings will be used to measure elementary school quality.
Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use hierarchical linear modeling to analyze the data. The researchers will conduct analyses to evaluate the impact of the intervention on all children and subgroups. They will use multilevel mediation analysis to examine effects mediated through classroom quality or HSPC-aligned teaching practices.