Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Strengthening Head Start Impacts for Dual Language Learner Children: A Case Study of a Two-Generation Intervention

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 1:45 PM
Merrick II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Teresa Eckrich Sommer1, Hirokazu Yoshikawa2, Elise Chor3, Celia J. Gomez4, P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale1 and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn5, (1)Northwestern University, (2)New York University, (3)University of Chicago, (4)RAND Corporation, (5)Columbia University
Dual language learners (DLLs) enter kindergarten less prepared than their English-speaking counterparts (Espinosa, 2013). Notably, 30% of children served by Head Start come from families that primarily speak a language other than English at home (Office of Head Start, 2014). While the Head Start Impact Study showed significantly larger positive impacts on cognitive outcomes for DLL children than non-DLL children (ACF, 2012), no models exist for integrating ESL for parents into Head Start. The current study considers how Head Start providers can add innovative parent ESL programming based on a family literacy curriculum contextualized to children’s early learning experiences and daily family life to the Head Start model, with the potential to yield benefits for dual language learner children while also expanding parents’ economic opportunities.

The CAP Family Advancement Study (CAP FAST) examines a two-generation program for low-income families run by the Community Action Project of Tulsa County, OK (CAP Tulsa), an anti-poverty agency that offers Head Start and other family services. Thirty-six percent of CAP Tulsa parents are Hispanic, and CAP works with a large number of immigrant families with limited English proficiency. To address the needs of the linguistically diverse population it serves, CAP incorporated an ESL track into its CareerAdvance® adult education and workforce training program, which covers tuition expenses and provides social and other financial supports to maximize parents’ chances for success. The agency worked with CAP FAST researchers and consultants to develop a research-based ESL curriculum contextualized to children’s Head Start experiences and family functioning, modeled in large part on the Arlington Education and Employment Program’s REEP curriculum.

CAP FAST is a randomized control trial that assigns families to receive traditional Head Start services (control) or Head Start programming with supplementary adult CareerAdvance® services (treatment), allowing us to determine whether the two-generation intervention model yields better outcomes than Head Start alone. The mixed methods study uses parent survey, child assessment, focus group, observational, and CAP administrative data to assess the program’s effectiveness and implementation, considering a wide range of family outcomes including parent educational attainment and employment; parent psychological well-being; child cognitive and socioemotional development; parent and child executive functioning, and parent-child relationships.

The first two (of six) cohorts of study participants contain a total of 80 parents, of which 46 are ESL (treatment or control group) participants. In this paper, we examine ESL participant parents’ program take-up (e.g. financial incentives, class attendance), growth in English-language acquisition, Head Start involvement, and perspectives on the program using quantitative and qualitative data (n = 28). Initial findings suggest that instructors as well as parents find the curriculum engaging and effective and expect it to increase educational persistence. Results of this study will inform the field of adult ESL education by evaluating the efficacy of a contextualized family literacy ESL curriculum, as well as the field of early childhood education by measuring the added benefit of a contextualized adult ESL program for low-income dual language learner children and their families under a two-generation intervention model.