Academic journal article School Community Journal

Design, Implementation, and Outcomes of a School Readiness Program for Diverse Families

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Design, Implementation, and Outcomes of a School Readiness Program for Diverse Families

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study describes the design, implementation, and outcomes of a school-based readiness program for prekindergarten children (4-year-olds) and their families. The program was designed on the basis of a collaborative model of university-school partnership, and the program itself featured relationship-building between families and schools. The research examined the implementation of the readiness program across sites and examined potential outcomes by following the children into kindergarten. Results on implementation showed that parents' goals differed according to whether families spoke English as a first or second language and that teachers' goals evolved over time to emphasize partnership rather than direct instruction. Results also suggested that directly assessed outcomes were tied to the quality of interactions among teachers, parents, and children, as well as to other aspects of program quality that varied across sites. Direct outcome measures also revealed differences between child participants and a comparison group who did not participate in the school-based readiness program and between families who spoke English as a first or second language. The interpretation of the findings on implementation and outcomes is discussed from the standpoint of methodological alternatives to randomized, control experiments. A case is made for examining multiple measures that tap context and process variables that may mediate and moderate connections between programs and outcomes.

Keywords: readiness, parent involvement, early childhood, kindergarten

Introduction

The period of early childhood has received unprecedented public and political attention over the last decade, with particular interest in how readiness for school can be fostered during the preschool period (e.g., Pelletier & Corter, in press; Pianta, Kraft-Sayre, Rimm-Kaufman, Gercke, & Hiffins, 2001). At the same time, parent partnerships and involvement in early childhood programs and in schools have shared the spotlight (e.g., Corter & Pelletier, 2005; Epstein & Sanders, 2002). There are some research examples of how targeted efforts during the preschool program can engage parents to boost children's readiness in literacy and self-management (e.g., Lonigan & Whitehurst, 1998; Webster- Stratton, Reid, & Hammond, 2001) but fewer studies that assess more general approaches to bringing children, parents, and schools into partnerships that involve mutual learning as children enter school. This study sought to examine the design, implementation, and impact of a general approach to bringing preschoolers and parents into schools to work directly with kindergarten teachers. The research employed elements of design research (e.g., Cobb, Confrey, DiSessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003) with multiple measures over time to assess the implementation and later impacts, and to provide feedback to the teachers and school district. Particular attention was paid to possible mediating processes between program and outcome as well as to contextual variables. "Process" is often overlooked in evaluations of interventions and programs, even when these evaluations meet RCT (randomized control trial) or quasi-experimental standards (e.g., Chatterji, 2004). Since programs may need to be adapted to fit local contexts, monitoring processes that have been linked to positive outcomes is one way to ensure better results.

There are many empirical demonstrations that naturally-occurring differences in involvement among parents are correlated with variations in their children's school readiness or achievement, but it is harder to find evidence that programmatic efforts to increase parent involvement have the effect of increasing student achievement. For example, in a meta-review of 34 studies evaluating parent involvement programs, Mattingly, Prislin, McKenzie, Rodriguez, and Kayzar (2002) found little hard evidence that the programs had impact on student achievement. …

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