Poster Paper: Making Use of Multiple Measures: Classroom Instructional Content, Format, and Quality During Rapid Pre-K Expansion in New York City

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Regency Ballroom (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Anne Kou, Michelle Maier and Shira Mattera, MDRC

As public and political support for pre-K has grown in recent years, so has government investment. State spending on pre-K rose to $6.2 billion in 2015 and currently, forty-two states have public preschool programs although they vary widely by funding, quality, and access (Barnett et al, 2015). One of the largest recent expansions in access came from New York City’s Pre-K for All (PKA) initiative, which provides free full-day pre-K for all 4-year olds and increased the number of children served from 19,000 in 2014 to 53,000 in 2015.

This presentation provides a multidimensional description of pre-K classrooms in sites serving low-income children before and after the rapid scale-up of PKA by capitalizing on existing data from multiple measures collected as part of Making Pre-K Count (MPC), a randomized controlled trial contemporaneous with the rollout of PKA. MPC tested the effects of an evidence-based math curriculum and teacher training on classroom and child outcomes in 69 pre-K sites serving low-income families in New York City. This presentation examines data from 88 classrooms in the “pre-K as usual” control group. Observers blind to classroom treatment status conducted three-hour-long classroom observations at multiple time points between 2013 and 2015 using two instruments: 1) Narrative Record (Farran and Bilbrey, 2004), which logs all classroom activities and their content focus; and 2) Classroom Assessment Scoring System (Pianta, La Paro, and Hamre, 2008) which assesses quality based on student-teacher interactions.

Preliminary results indicate shifts in the predominant learning setting and focus of classroom activities in the sample between 2013 and 2015. The proportion of observation time spent in whole group instruction decreased (from 34.9 percent in 2013 to 30.1 percent in 2014 and 32.8 percent in 2015) while small group and small group center instruction became more prevalent (6.9 percent in 2013, 11.7 percent in 2014, and 8.2 percent in 2015). The focus of activities moved away from mixed content (where no single content area was covered for one continuous minute); classrooms spent over a third of observation time on mixed content in 2013 and only a quarter in 2014 and 2015. Concomitantly, there was a rise in instruction focused on discrete academic domains such as math, literacy, science, and social studies/social emotional skills. The proportion of observation time focused on literacy increased from 7.9 percent in 2013 to 12.4 percent in 2015, and the proportion of time on math rose to 10.3 percent in 2015 from 7.9 percent in 2013. We will also present findings on multiple CLASS quality measures (including differences between community organization-based and school-based settings).

This study was uniquely situated to build on rich extant data describing pre-K classrooms in sites serving majority low-income children during a period of system-wide change in New York City’s pre-K. The use of multiple measures for observation over time allowed for a more accurate and detailed picture of classroom instruction across three school years and the use of data from existing studies is a cost-efficient way to enhance policymakers’ understanding of the current pre-K system.