CFPR Past Projects

image collage of children, families and teachers

Members of the Early Head Start Research Consortium have the dual responsibilities of facilitating data collection for the national evaluation of Early Head Start and conducting in-depth "local" research at a single Early Head Start site.

National Research

The Early Head Start Research Consortium participates in national efforts to evaluate Early Head Start (EHS). The team collaborates with researchers from 17 Early Head Start sites around the country to select measures and conduct analyses that provide information about the effectiveness of various program models for particular categories of children and families. The national sample includes about 3,000 families (equally divided between those receiving EHS intervention and comparison group). Children have been followed since birth and the oldest children are now in fifth grade.

The National Study was Designed to Address Several Important Questions:

  • How do Early Head Start Programs affect child, parent, and family outcomes?
  • How do different program approaches and community contexts affect these outcomes?
  • How do program implementation and services affect outcomes?
  • How do the characteristics of children and families affect outcomes?

Local Research

For the local research, the Missouri team adopted an in-depth case study approach focusing on nine mothers who enrolled in Early Head Start during its first two years of operation. All the mothers were young, low-income, African-American, and never married. The mothers’ participation in the project commenced shortly before or after the birth of their first children. From the fall of 1996 to the summer of 2001, the team used semi-structured qualitative interviewing techniques, focus groups, and naturalistic observations to gather information on the mothers themselves, their family members, their friends, their Early Head Start home visitors, and various other service-providers and community leaders. The study examines paths of influence among individual and family characteristics, child well-being, social network relationships, community resources, social policy dictates, and cultural values. These findings will be described in a book that is due out December 2005: Keepin' On: The Everyday Struggles of Young Families in Poverty. By Jean Ispa, Mark Fine & Kathy Thornburg.

RURAL Excellence: Readiness Umbrella for Reading and Language

Funded by the US Department of Education Early Reading First

The RURAL Excellence Initiative is a partnership among five preschool centers and three eligible local education agencies (LEA) located in rural central Missouri. The vision for RURAL Excellence is to create preschool "Centers of Excellence" that support children's development of oral language and literacy skills, thinking and mathematical skills, and social skills so children experience a successful transition to kindergarten. RURAL Excellence, under the auspices of First Chance for Children, will implement the Emerging Language and Literacy Curriculum (ELLC). In 2002, ELLC was recommended by an American Speech Language Hearing Association committee to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, as one of the six potential model preschool language/ literacy programs. RURAL Excellence will serve over 160 preschool children, their parents, and educators.

The Center for Family Policy and Research will coordinate the RURAL Excellence evaluation. Quantitative and qualitative methods will be used to collect formative and summative data. The impact of the project on child outcomes, teacher outcomes, and family involvement will be examined using a quasi-experimental, longitudinal design. The study is quasi-experimental because neither children nor teachers will be randomly assigned to conditions; however, the comparison group programs have been chosen to closely reflect the treatment programs (locale (rural), child characteristics, and teacher qualifications.

The goals of RURAL Excellence are: 1) Children will be proficient in the language and literacy skills needed for kindergarten; 2) Preschools will be recognized as "Centers of Excellence;" 2) Educators will be proficient in their implementation of the Emerging Language and Literacy Curriculum (ELLC) and related assessment processes; 4) Classrooms will be high quality language and literacy-rich environments; and, 5) Children, parents, educators, and LEA personnel will be engaged in a seamless system of consistent language and literacy practices across the rural community. RURAL Excellence is unique because it will serve at-risk children in underserved rural communities and because the ELLC curricular approach emphasizes explicit and implicit instruction.

ELLC was developed by the Children's Therapeutic Learning Center (Kansas City, MO) to target improvement in language, pre-writing and pre-literacy skills, and cognitive development among children at-risk for language and reading difficulties. As an Early Reading First grant site (2003), preliminary data indicate that almost 300 children in ELLC classrooms demonstrated significant improvement in pre-academic, phonological, oral language, and emergent literacy skills.

ELLC is a comprehensive program, addressing each developmental domain, based on children's literature. Curricular objectives focus on phonological awareness, phonics, language structure, print awareness, and vocabulary development. ELLC uses systematic progress monitoring to guide teacher practices thus ensuring children are prepared for a successful transition into kindergarten. Language and literacy-based activities are incorporated throughout the recommended 11 learning centers and daily routines (e.g., snack time, large motor activities, hand washing). Parental involvement (e.g., home visits, frequent communication, workshops) is integrated in each unit as research indicates such involvement is vital to children's language and emergent-literacy development. ELLC's curriculum-based progress monitoring system supports educators' use of appropriate teaching strategies for large- and small-group settings as well as individualized instruction for children who may be at-risk for language or reading difficulties.

This study evaluated the partnership between the Children’s Division and the Early Head Start in one small Midwestern town through focus groups and individual interviews. This qualitative data analyzed to determine the effectiveness of this partnership in assisting families at risk of child maltreatment.

This study was conducted to evaluate which state agency should be the lead agency for First Steps, the system of early intervention services for children with disabilities aged birth to three in Missouri.

Head's Up! Reading, a 30-hour interactive distance-learning course, was delivered via satellite in Missouri. This professional development opportunity was appropriate for early childhood teachers in public schools, child care settings, Head Start facilities, as well as parent educators, librarians and parents. The course focused on oral language, phonemic awareness, letter identification, and print awareness and reflected researched-based theory combined with opportunities to translate research into practice. There was no cost for the course unless the participants choose to receive college credit. The evaluation assessed teacher practices and program quality for a sample of early childhood teachers who participated in the video classes on children's literacy and language development.

This longitudinal study evaluated early childhood programs throughout the state of Missouri as mandated by Missouri House Bill 1519. This legislation allocated funding to improve early childhood programs and required that the quality of programs receiving this funding be evaluated. Programs can receive this funding from the Department of Social Services (DSS), or from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

The Main Research Questions Addressed by this Study were:

  • How prepared are children for success in school?
  • How do outcomes for children attending programs funded by DSS or DESE compare to outcomes for children attending other programs?
  • Does the quality of these programs improve over time?

To Address these Questions, the Following Design was Employed:

  • Early childhood programs representing all regions of Missouri were evaluated.
  • Many different types of child-care settings were the recipients of the HB 1519 funds. Thus, in this study, quality was assessed in a range of settings and included public, Early Head Start, Head Start, nonprofit, for-profit, center-based, and home-based programs.
  • Multiple indicators of quality were employed including observations of programs by trained observers, teachers’ knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices, and teachers’ education and training.
  • Multiple child outcomes were assessed including receptive language, literacy, socio-emotional skills, and conventional knowledge.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act went into effect August 1, 1997. With this act, cash assistance, formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), was replaced by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and recipients now have a lifetime limit of up to 5 years of federal cash assistance. Furthermore, states have greater flexibility in the design and implementation of welfare programs. In fact, some states have chosen to have a shorter lifetime limit on cash assistance. Although the number of TANF recipients has dropped dramatically in the past few years, it is unclear what is happening to families and their young children as they move off TANF.

In conjunction with the Early Head Start Research Consortium, the research team conducted an extensive study of welfare reform in nine states (AR, CA, CO, IA, KS, MI, MO, NY, PA). Over 600 interviews were conducted over a two-year period between 1998-2000. The design of this study allowed researchers to examine differences between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas and explore perspectives of welfare reform from differing viewpoints.

This was a qualitative study investigating how perspectives of welfare reform may change or evolve from (a) state level policy makers, (b) county or local administrators responsible for implementing the policies, (c) social service workers directly involved with welfare recipients, (d) Head Start/ Early Head Start program staff interacting with both the social service workers and families, and (e) families. For each of these groups, investigators conducted interviews to gain respondents’ perspectives on:

  • welfare reform policy goals,
  • implementation strategies,
  • barriers to employment, and
  • barriers or facilitators to implementing the Early Head Start programs.

The findings of this study were the focus of a national conference and policy briefing held in Washington, DC in the spring of 2001. The Center for Family Policy and Research hosted these events.

Convened in 1997, this is the first child care research partnership to encompass an entire Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) region. It is a multi-state project being conducted in collaboration with researchers in Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas, HHS Region 7. Research partners are from four state universities and the Gallup Organization. Additionally, each state team includes a member of the Early Head Start Research Consortium. The purposes of the research project are to:

  • Establish a baseline of quality in child care for children, infants through pre-school age, across the four states.
  • Establish a set of indicators that can be used over time as quality indicators for child care within the four states, eventually to be used by the states to assess quality on a regular basis.
  • Determine quality of child care across many groups, such as families who do or do not receive child care subsidies or families living in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.
  • Determine the characteristics of the child care labor force across the four states.
  • Determine if quality and work force characteristics change over the three years of the study.
  • Determine how child care and child care subsidies support working families in their efforts to earn a living and balance work and parenting.
  • Link findings on quality to other child and family data available through the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project study of child and family outcomes, the Early Head Start welfare reform study and other related studies in states.

Twenty-four thousand parent toolkits, designed for parents with children birth through age three were produced for distribution to families in Missouri. This project was funded by the Missouri Department of Social Services through House Bill 1519 Stay at Ho me Parent grants. The kits included items that were focused on supporting children's develop ment, health and safety, and building the parent-child and family-community relationships.

The Effect of Project Construct: The Early Childhood Framework for Curriculum and Assessment on Children’s Academic Achievement

Awarded by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education

This three-year randomized, longitudinal study will assess the impact of Project Construct: The Early Childhood Framework for Curriculum and Assessment (www.projectconstruct.org), a cognitively oriented constructivist curriculum, on five areas of student achievement: general knowledge, language development, literacy skills, numeracy skills, and socio-emotional development. Twenty-one full-day, single age preschool classrooms were randomly assigned to treatment ( n = 11) and control conditions ( n = 10). The treatment classrooms implemented Project Construct, whereas the control classrooms used the nonspecific approach in place prior to the study. In order to test the effect of Project Construct alone, classrooms were selected only in centers where teachers reported having no prior curriculum training. All teachers had at least a high school diploma or equivalent. The sample was also stratified with respect to urbanicity (rural/urban). At the beginning of the study, the child sample consisted of 123 preschoolers randomly selected from the treatment classrooms; 109 preschoolers were randomly selected from the control classrooms to act as the comparison group.

Teachers in the treatment condition attended the Project Construct’s Institute for Early Education and Care Professionals, which consists of three 12-hour modules designed for teachers of children ages 3-5. Module 1 covers the basics of constructivist theory and practice, including setting up a developmentally appropriate learning environment. Module 2 focuses on language development, literacy skills, and symbolic expression (music, art, movement, play). Module 3 addresses young children’s development of mathematical and scientific thinking skills. In addition, the treatment teachers attended two follow-up workshops and received four half-day on-site consultations from Project Construct facilitators.

Children were assessed prior to treatment implementation (October 2003) in both treatment and control groups. A battery of standardized assessment instruments were administered that covered general knowledge, language development, literacy skills, and numeracy skills. Socio-emotional development was measured using teacher and parent report. Time 2 assessments for both treatment and control group children occurred in the spring of 2004 ( n = 208); Time 3 assessments occurred in spring 2005 ( n = 186; most children in kindergarten); and Time 4 assessments occurred in spring 2006 ( n = 156; most children in first grade).

In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of Project Construct on children’s achievement, we also studied the effect of Project Construct professional development on treatment teachers’ perceptions and beliefs about the teaching process (including their philosophy of teaching and learning). For this qualitative study, both lead and assistant teachers participated in face-to-face interviews over the course of the grant. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using the constant comparative method, an inductive approach blending data collection, coding, and analysis. We found that the 17 teachers fell into three categories regarding teacher professionalism: Early Childhood Education (ECE) as a Career, ECE as a Conditional Career, and ECE as a Job/Task. Teachers within these groups varied by (a) demographic and professional characteristics, (b) teacher developmental stage, and (c) extent of knowledge structures regarding effective early childhood education.

The grant is administered by the Center for Family Policy & Research (University of Missouri–Columbia). The national contractor for data collection is Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

First Chance for Children (FCFC) just received this grant from the US Dept. of Education. This proposal is in response to the Foundations for Learning Grants Program, CFDA #84.215H, Promotion of School Readiness through Early Childhood Emotional, Behavioral and Social Development. Based on a review of the Boone County early childhood services and county data, FCFC developed the Ready for School project to advance the following three goals: (1) Increase children’s emotional, behavioral, and social development by enhancing teachers’ knowledge and use of teaching strategies to promote social-emotional functioning; (2) Increase individualized family support services and access to community resources; and (3) Increase family involvement in the early childhood program and school readiness activities.

It is anticipated that there will be multiple project outcomes. Children will improve their total protective factor scores (initiative, attachment, and self-control) and decrease their behavior concerns scores and experience a smooth transition into school. Parents and teachers will increase their knowledge of practices that promote children’s development and families will experience an increase in individualized family support services.

The theoretical base for the project focuses on resiliency research and the role of familial and teacher support in children’s emotional, behavioral, and social development. FCFC will work with community partners to ensure sustainability of the project beyond the grant period and that performance measures and grant goals are achieved.

The Ready to Succeed in School project compiled results of multiple statewide early childhood and school readiness evaluations. Currently, program quality data from the House Bill 1519, Midwest Child Care Consortium, Full Start, and Early Head Start projects are being combined and analyzed. The compilation of these data enables Center staff to make policy recommendations based on a larger and more representative sample of Missouri early childhood programs.

The impetus for Start Up and Expansion (SUE) funds came from the recommendations outlined by the Governor's Commission on Early Childhood Care and Education. The funding for SUE comes from the Missouri gaming funds, specifically riverboat entrance fees and is managed by Missouri Department of Social Services (MDSS). SUE grants were first awarded in fiscal year 2005 but technical assistance funds were not allocated to support the 12 awardees. In fiscal year 2006, there were 24 SUE awardees and the Center for Family Policy and Research was given funds to coordinate consultants to provide technical assistance to each grantee. In fiscal year 2007, there were 10 additional awardees that also receive technical assistance from consultants. The consultants promote the grantees growth, knowledge, quality, and success of the Start-Up and Expansion facilities by ensuring the grantees meet their contractual requirements with MDSS, Children's Division. The consultants who provide technical assistance support the providers in the implementation of quality early childhood care and education. In fiscal year 2006 the SUE grant was for children birth to 48 months and for fiscal year 2007 the SUE grant was for children birth to 24 months. All technical assistance is individualized, intensive, one-on-one and hands-on to each grantee. The consultants provide information such as early childhood research and best practices, environmental design, budget assistance, program planning and marketing, and meeting grant goals.