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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
The coaching model emphasized a systematic approach to classroom coaching. The Coaches used fidelity tools, Instructional Checklists, and anecdotal notes in the coaching process. The MBB Coaches modeled specific instructional techniques, conducted regular and systematic teacher observations based on the targeted skills, and then provided data-informed performance feedback to the teacher. MBB Coaches provided approximately 125 hours of coaching support to each classroom teacher.
MBB Business Advisors worked with EC program directors to strengthen the business practices of EC programs.
The Center for Family Policy and Research evaluated MBB over a 5-year period. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine the impact of MBB on children’s development, classroom quality, and Coach-teacher interactions.
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.
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.