Specific Aspects of Quality that Support Children's School Readiness in Community-Based and School-Based Early Childhood Programs
Co-Principal Investigators: Robert Kaestner and Everett Smith
Purpose: This research study will examine the association between aspects of preschool quality and child health, behavioral and cognitive outcomes in community-based and school-based early care and education programs. The purpose of the study is to identify, construct, and examine measures of preschool quality that can be used to inform the development of specific preschool-based interventions and policies that may support school readiness outcomes.
Project Activities: The research team will use datasets from three large studies, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), and the Three City Study to examine the associations between preschool quality and children's cognitive, social-behavioral, and health outcomes. The research team will identify relevant items that can be used to construct domain-specific (i.e., cognitive, social-behavioral, and health) quality measures from existing survey instruments included in the specified data sets. They will establish the psychometric properties of the newly constructed domain-specific quality measures. The research team will then conduct analyses to examine the associations between the domain-specific definitions of quality and child outcomes.
Products: The product of this project will be preliminary evidence regarding the relationship between domain-specific definitions of quality and children's outcomes. Such evidence will hopefully inform the development of specific preschool-based interventions and policies that promote children's school readiness. The study findings will be summarized in conference presentations and published reports.
Setting: The project will analyze data drawn from three large-scale secondary datasets: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), and Welfare, Children and Families: A Three City Study (Three City Study).
Population: The ECLS-B dataset includes a nationally representative sample of children born in 2001. At preschool-age, the sample included 8,900 children. The ECLS-B sample includes children from a range of socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds. The SECCYD sampled newborns from hospital birth records from 10 sites in 9 states in 1991. At 36 months, the sample included 1,215 children. The SECCYD sample is disproportionately comprised of White, more highly educated mothers. The Three City Study sampled low-income families from households in low-income neighborhoods in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio in 1999. The sample included 737 2-to-4-year olds.
Intervention: Not applicable.
Research Design and Methods: The research team will examine the association between domain-specific measures of preschool quality and children's cognitive, social-behavioral, and physical health outcomes. The research team will consider specific aspects of quality that are related to children's social competence and emotional regulation and are associated with a reduction in behavior problems in naturalistic settings. They will also look at specific aspects of quality that improve children's cognitive outcomes in preschool. They will identify relevant items to construct domain-specific quality measures from existing survey instruments included in the specified data sources and establish the psychometric properties of the newly constructed domain-specific quality measures. Members of the research team will integrate the study of physical health with the study of cognitive and socioemotional development.
The following research questions will be addressed: (1) Does cognitive-specific quality differ between preschools affiliated with elementary schools or with other community organizations, according to funding source, or according to curricula? Does the relationship between cognitive-specific quality and child cognitive development differ according to these characteristics (i.e., curriculum, funding, preschool affiliation)? (2) What aspects of quality predict relatively understudied areas of academic school readiness, such as pre-math skills and approaches to learning? (3) What domain-specific aspects of quality hold the most promise for reducing the higher rates of aggression and illness observed in many centers? Throughout the study, interactions by child race-ethnicity, gender and age, and maternal education and income will be considered.
Control Condition: Not applicable.
Key Measures: Across datasets, key measures of quality of early care and education settings include the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS), the Assessment Profile for early childhood programs, the Observational Record of the Caregiving Environment, and the Arnett Caregiver Interaction Scale. Child cognitive outcomes include the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, the Woodcock-Johnson achievement tests, and measures of child engagement, enthusiasm and persistence in structured mother-child interactions. Child socioemotional outcomes include mothers' ratings on the Child Behavior Checklist and the Social Skills Rating System and observational assessments of child self-regulation. Child health outcomes include mothers' report of common illnesses, injuries and overall health as well as measured height and weight.
Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will extract variables from existing instruments and create domain-specific measures of quality and outcomes. They will conduct psychometric analyses to establish the psychometric properties of the newly constructed domain-specific measures of quality. The research team will test for domain-specific quality dimensions in early care and education settings using confirmatory factor analyses and Rasch models. They will then estimate regression models associating domain-specific quality with child outcomes. In their regression analyses, they will adjust for confounds by using measured control variables, propensity scores, and fixed effects when it is appropriate to do so.
Publications from this project:
Colwell, N., Gordon, R.A., Fujimoto, K., Kaestner, R., and Korenman, S. (2013). New Evidence On The Validity Of The Arnett Caregiver Interaction Scale: Results From The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28 (2): 218–233.
Gordon, R.A., Fujimoto, K., Kaestner, R., Korenman, S., and Abner, K. (2012). An Assessment of the Validity of the ECERS–R With Implications for Measures of Child Care Quality and Relations to Child Development. Developmental Psychology, 49 (1): 146–160.