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Identifying Effective Instructional Practices and Contexts for Spanish-speaking English Learners in Florida's Universal Preschool Program

Year: 2017
Name of Institution:
Florida State University
Goal: Exploration
Principal Investigator:
Lonigan, Christopher
Award Amount: $1,395,215
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2017-06/30/2021)
Award Number: R305A170430

Description:

Co-Principal Investigator: Beth Phillips and Chris Schatschneider

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to identify the instructional practices and contextual factors that are associated with higher-versus-lower levels of growth in the school readiness skills of preschoolers who are Spanish-speaking English learners (ELs). Researchers will address five specific aims: (1) identify specific instructional practices that are associated with higher rates of growth in school-readiness skills for preschoolers who are Spanish-speaking ELs as well as the impact of these practices on academic outcomes measured at the start of kindergarten; (2) identify contextual factors that moderate the effects of these instructional practices on children's skills, including child-level variables, teacher-level variables, and classroom-level variables; (3) explore whether the effects of specific instructional practices are unique to children's targeted outcomes or if some instructional practices have global effects on the development of skills of preschoolers who are Spanish-speaking ELs; (4) contrast the relative effects of general classroom environment characteristics (i.e., instruction support, emotional support, organization) versus the effects of specific instructional strategies on the development of school-readiness skills of preschoolers who are Spanish-speaking ELs; and (5) and explore whether there are different effects of specific instructional practices and contextual factors for children who are Spanish-speaking ELs versus children who are monolingual English-speakers served in the same classrooms.  Researchers expect to use the outcomes of this study to identify specific instructional practices and strategies that promote the development of school readiness skills for preschoolers who are Spanish-speaking English learners.

Project Activities: The researchers will collect primary data and use state administrative data to identify instructional practices associated with different rates of growth in the school readiness skills of preschool-age Spanish-speaking ELs and determine if the associations between instructional practices and child outcomes vary based on child-, teacher-, and preschool-level variables. They will recruit and assess 1,000 preschoolers who are Spanish-speaking ELs, conduct classroom observations, collect data from teachers and parents, and link primary data to secondary data sources from the state's preschool program. The results of the project will identify malleable instructional practices and classroom contexts that support the development of school readiness skills for young Spanish-speaking ELs.

Products: Researchers will produce preliminary evidence of potentially promising classroom-level factors that are associated with the development of school readiness skills for preschool-aged, Spanish-speaking English learners, and produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in state-funded preschool classrooms serving moderate-to-high proportions of children identified as English Learners (EL). Most preschool sites will be in Central and South Florida. Sites must serve at least 40% EL students.

Sample: Study participants will include 1,000 4-year-old children who are Spanish-speaking ELs attending 100 state-supported Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) preschool programs, their parents, and their teachers.

Research Design and Methods: This four-year project will involve primary data collection and the use of state administrative data for two cohorts of children. For each cohort of preschoolers, researchers will obtain child demographic and preschool outcome data from the administrative data of the Florida Office of Early Learning. Researchers will assess children in preschool and kindergarten, conduct classroom observations in preschool, and link state-level administrative child-level data (collected by prekindergarten and kindergarten teachers) with researcher-collected child, family, teacher, and classroom data. In each year of the project, researchers will use the Florida Office of Early Learning kindergarten readiness database to identify VPK sites that serve a significant number of children classified as English Learners in kindergarten. VPK sites that served between 40 and 100 percent of children classified as EL based on the prior year's preschool readiness data will be eligible for inclusion in the study. In year 1/cohort 1 (pre-k cohort) and year 2/cohort 2 (pre-k cohort), researchers will assess children in fall, winter, and spring of the preschool year, conduct classroom observations in fall and spring of each year, and collect teacher and parent survey data. In year 2/cohort 1 (kindergarten follow-up) and year 3/cohort 2 (kindergarten follow-up), the research team will conduct kindergarten assessments in fall of each school year. In year 4, researchers will conduct data analyses and disseminate the study findings.

Control Condition: Due to the exploratory nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: Researchers will obtain child demographic and preschool outcome data from a the administrative database of the Florida Office of Early Learning that includes child-level scores on the four subtests of the state's Voluntary Pre-k (VPK) assessment, which is a teacher administered English language assessment give to the children three times during their preschool year (fall, winter, spring). Primary measures will also include direct assessments of Spanish-speaking children's language and literacy, math, and self-regulation skills, and classroom observation measures of global climate, quality, and specific instructional patterns, teacher questionnaires, and parent questionnaires. The Spanish Preschool Early Literacy Assessment (SPELA) will be used to assess children's language and literacy skills in preschool. A researcher-developed Spanish-language adaptation of the state's VPK math assessment will be used to assess preschoolers' early math skills. The Picture Vocabulary, Letter-Word Identification, Word Attack, and Applied Problems subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson III or the Batería III Woodcock-Muñoz will be used to assess children's academic skills in kindergarten. Classroom observation measures include the Teacher-Behavior Rating Scale-Revised Bilingual Version, the Classroom Assessment Scoring System Pre-k, and a researcher-developed measure, the Classroom Language Environment Observational Scales.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use three-level growth models to examine associations between teacher background and classroom instructional factors (e.g., language of instruction, quality of instruction, global classroom quality) children's of language, literacy, and math skills across the preschool year. They will also explore child, classroom and teacher characteristics as possible moderators of associations between instruction and child growth for children classified as English learners.

Related IES Projects:
Development of a Comprehensive Assessment System for Spanish-Speaking English Language Learner's Early Literacy Skills (R305A090169)