Poster Paper: Assessing Children's Growth in School Readiness Skills By Preschool Curricula Type

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

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tutrang Nguyen, University of California, Irvine

Increasing numbers of families utilize compensatory education such as Head Start to improve their children’s pre-academic and behavioral skills (Farran, 2007). The growing needs of center-based education require better policies to support and regulate the variety of public and private childcare centers. Such policies would benefit from empirical studies linking center-based education and child development, and one important way to examine this link is through studying the efficacy of preschool curricula. Presently, many states require center-based programs to adopt a specific curriculum to help ensure high quality instruction (e.g., North Carolina, Office of School Readiness, 2008). Federally and state-sponsored Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) incorporate curriculum into their tiered rankings and consider the use of a curriculum as an indication of program quality (e.g., Auger, Karoly, & Schwartz, 2015). This system is beneficial for curriculum publishers, but questions remain whether it is beneficial for preschool children.

Preschool programs typically choose their own curriculum, but their choices are often constrained by a pre-approved list developed by state agencies and accrediting bodies (Clifford & Crawford, 2009). Most programs, such as Head Start, require a curriculum that focuses on educating and providing enriching experiences for all domains of children’s development. Whole-child curricula are not domain specific and promote children’s learning through a developmental-interaction approach; yet there is little evidence of the effectiveness of these curricula (Yoshikawa, et al., 2013). Furthermore, curricula are expensive; between purchasing the teacher manual, classroom materials, tools for monitoring and assessment, training teachers, and providing on site coaching or assistance, the cost per classroom can be several thousand dollars. Therefore, understanding how curricula differ in effectiveness at promoting school readiness skills for low-income and disadvantaged children is a national and state-level early childhood policy concern.

The present study consequently seeks to address one key question to further our understanding of early childhood curricula: does children’s growth in school readiness skills vary by curricula type? The Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey, 2009 Cohort (FACES-2009; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), 2009-2013) will be used to answer this research question. Inferential analyses will examine children’s growth in school readiness across the prekindergarten year and relate it to end of kindergarten outcomes by preschool curricula type. The different types of curricula are: Creative Curriculum, High/Scope Curriculum, Locally Designed Curriculum, widely available curriculum, or other curriculum. Analyses will be run with a complete set of demographic covariates, Head Start center-level fixed effects, the appropriate weights, and the standard errors properly adjusted for weighting and clustering.

Empirically supported preschool curricula can ensure that children are provided opportunities to learn by guiding the nature of instruction and the availability of materials and activities in the classroom. Given current efforts at the federal and state levels to expand early childhood education programs and increase preschool quality and the federal and state dollars invested each year on curricula for these programs, understanding whether different curricular packages are more or less effective in promoting school readiness skills is essential.