Poster Paper: Connections Across Systems: Elementary Teacher Outreach to Early Education Programs during the Transition to School and Associations with Children's Initial School Adjustment and Success in the First Year

Friday, November 4, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kyle DeMeo Cook1, Eric Dearing1 and Henrik Daae Zachrisson2,3, (1)Boston College, (2)The Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development, (3)University of Oslo

When children enter school, they face a critical transition with changes in their physical settings, social relationships, and learning expectations (Pianta, et al, 2007). Successful adaptation to these changes has implications for later academic and social success (Alexander, et al, 1988). Thus, questions have arisen over how schools can smooth the transition and provide ecological alignment across early education settings and schools. Yet, there is limited empirical literature to guide policy and practice. In the present study, we add to this limited literature by examining information sharing practices between early education centers and elementary school teachers in Norway, a country with near universal, high-quality early education. Specifically, we explored whether information sharing is associated with children’s initial adjustment and their social and academic success in the first year of school.

Data/Measures: Data was drawn from the Behavior Outlook Norwegian Developmental Study (BONDS), a longitudinal study of 1,157 Norwegian children. Data collection began with a parent interview/questionnaire when the child was six months, and continued through the first year of formal schooling (first grade in Norway). Data on three cohorts of children (born in 2006-2008) were used and all children who remained in the study at first grade with valid elementary school IDs were included in the analytic sample of N=932. After school entry, children’s first grade teachers completed a questionnaire and reported on whether they had contact with the study child’s prior early education center to receive general information about the program and/or about the specific study child. They also reported on how well adjusted study children were at the start of the school year, rating their social adjustment and academic adjustment, and rated children’s skills, and reported mid-year functioning in first grade (communication, social skills, externalizing behaviors, academic skills, and motivation).

Analysis/Findings: Models were run to assess whether teacher-contact was directly associated with initial academic and social adjustment and child outcomes in first grade. Children with teachers who contacted their early education centers and received both types of information were one and half times more likely to receive higher ratings of positive social adjustment at school entry (OR=1.51). However, no direct association between contact and children’s initial academic adjustment or the mid-year assessments of functioning was found. To assess whether the association between contact and children’s success in first grade was mediated by the more proximal mechanism of initial academic and/or social adjustment to school, Baron & Kenny’s (1989) causal steps approach was used. After estimating the regression coefficients, we tested the significance of the indirect/mediated effects using Sobel tests (Sobel, 1982). Initial social adjustment was strongly and positively related to higher initial academic adjustment (OR=5.18). The indirect effect from contact between teachers to social adjustment and, in turn, to academic adjustment was significant. We found associations between initial academic adjustment and the later five outcomes, and indirect effects linking initial social skills with the five later outcomes.

Teacher Contact -> Initial Social Adjustment -> Initial Academic Adjustment -> 1st Grade Academic & Social Functioning