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Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness: Report from the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Initiative

NCER 2008-2009
July 2008


Twenty-seven measures were chosen to address the outcomes of interest regarding children’s school readiness (reading, phonological awareness, language, mathematics, and behavior) and classroom conditions (classroom quality, teacher-child interaction, and instructional practices). Table C lists the measures used for each outcome, when they were collected, and through which instrument they were collected. Five major data collection instruments were used to collect the outcome measures and other student, school and family data: (1) a child assessment, (2) a teacher report, (3) classroom observation, (4) a teacher interview or questionnaire, and (5) a parent interview.

Child Assessment

The child assessment measured the student-level academic outcomes for the evaluation, beginning with a preschool pre-test in the fall of 2003 and post-tests near the end of preschool in the spring of 2004, and the end of kindergarten in the spring of 2005. Individually administered, the battery assessed beginning reading skills, phonological awareness, oral language development, and mathematical knowledge and skills. The measures regarding reading included the Test of Early Reading Ability (TERA) (Reid, Hresko, and Hammill 2001), the Woodcock Johnson (WJ) Letter Word Identification, and WJ Spelling ( McGrew and Woodcock 2001). For phonological awareness, the measures were the Elision subtests of the Preschool Comprehensive Test of Phonologic and Print Processing and the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing for kindergarten (Pre-CTOPPP and CTOPP) (Wagner, Torgeson, and Rashotte 1999). For language, the measures included the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) (Dunn and Dunn 1997) and the Test of Language Development (TOLD) Grammatic Understanding subtest (Newcomer and Hammill 1997). For mathematics, the measures were the WJ Applied Problems ( McGrew and Woodcock 2001), the Child Math Assessment-Abbreviated (CMA-A) Composite Score (Klein and Starkey 2002), and the Building Blocks’ Shape Composition Task (unpublished).

Teacher Report of Child Behavior

Teacher reports provided the student-level behavior measures used in the evaluation. Preschool teachers gave pre-intervention ratings of child behaviors in the fall of 2003 and post-intervention ratings in the spring of 2004. They rated each child’s behavior (social competence, behavior problems, and classroom performance) using three scales: the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS) Social Skills scale, the SSRS Problem Behaviors scale (Gresham and Elliott 1990), and the Preschool Learning Behaviors Scale (PLBS) (McDermott et al. 2000). Kindergarten teachers provided a longer-term post-intervention rating on the students’ behavior in the spring of 2005 using the two SSRS scales and the Learning Behaviors Scale (LBS) (McDermott et al. 2000).

Classroom Observation

Two pre-intervention classroom measures and three post-intervention classroom measures were gathered from preschool classroom observations. No observations were made of kindergarten classrooms. Three scales designed to characterize the quality and organization of the classroom and the nature of the interaction between children and the teacher were used in the observations. The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R) (Harms, Clifford, and Cryer 1998) provided an overall measure of the quality of the classroom. The Arnett Caregiver Interaction Scale (Arnett) (Arnett 1989) measured teacher-child interaction on four scales: Positive Interaction, Harshness, Detachment, and Permissiveness. The pre-intervention observation using the ECERS-R and Arnett Scale was conducted in the fall of 2003 and the post-intervention observation in the spring of 2004. The Teacher Behavior Rating Scale (TBRS) (Landry et al. 2002) was added as a post-intervention measure to the spring 2004 observation to capture preschool instructional practices. The TBRS includes scales for teacher instructional practices regarding: written expression, print and letter knowledge, phonological awareness, book reading, oral language use, and mathematics concepts.

Teacher Interview/Questionnaire

Preschool teachers were interviewed regarding the types and frequency of classroom activities, general classroom information, clarification of observational data, teacher attitudes and beliefs, and teacher background information. The background information was used to construct covariates for the models used to analyze the data. Instead of an interview, kindergarten teachers completed a questionnaire that addressed their background, views on readiness, classroom resources and activities, instructional practices, and interactions with parents.

Parent Interview

Parents were interviewed regarding demographic information, their own and their child’s health and disability status, their assessment of the child’s accomplishments and social skills, family-child activities, parenting practices, parental depression, and the use of child care. The interview drew primarily from the Head Start’s Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2002) supplemented with additional measures. The demographic information and disability status were used to construct covariates for the models used to analyze the data.