Panel Paper: Making Pre-K Count: How Research Data and Measures Supported New York City’s Scale-up of Universal Pre-K

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Soldier Field (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Michelle Maier1, Shira Mattera1, Pamela Morris2 and Anne Kou1, (1)MDRC, (2)New York University

A growing number of locales around the U.S. are expanding access to pre-k, with 42 states spending over $6.2 billion on state-funded pre-k programs (Barnett et al., 2016). New York City is a prominent example. Beginning in 2011, NYC began a set of pre-k reforms: rolling out the Common Core standards in 2011 and establishing pre-k program quality requirements across all sites by consolidating funding streams via the EarlyLearn initiative in 2012. In 2014-2015, the City expanded full-day pre-k from 19,000 to 53,000 slots via Mayor de Blasio’s Pre-K for All initiative (Potter, 2015). Subsequently, the City rolled out professional development tracks to support sites’ program quality, including a math track using the Building Blocks curriculum (Clements & Sarama 2007).

Simultaneously (2013-2015), Making Pre-K Count (MPC)—a cluster-randomized controlled trial—was evaluating a large-scale, two-year implementation of the Building Blocks curriculum plus training and coaching in NYC pre-ks. MPC collected extensive data across 173 classrooms on program implementation and teacher math practices across two years and examined impacts on children’s pre-k and elementary school outcomes (Morris, Mattera & Maier, 2016; Mattera & Morris, 2017). MPC data coincide with a time of major change in the NYC pre-k system and provide a case study of how research data can help support and inform large-scale change. In this paper, we will present descriptive data on program fidelity and teacher practices, as well as findings from MPC, and how this information has informed NYC’s pre-k expansion efforts.

MPC closely monitored implementation of coaching and curricular implementation via weekly online logs capturing amount, content, and quality of content delivered. Logs were paired with pre-specified technical assistance benchmarks, allowing coaches and trainers to provide targeted technical assistance in real time. The MPC team shared these extensive logs and lessons learned with NYC’s pre-k team, helping them adapt the fidelity tool to their classrooms and goals.

MPC also collected detailed data about classroom math instruction via an adaptation of the COEMET (Sarama & Clements, 2009). Observers blind to treatment condition documented every instance of math during a three-hour observation. These data were collected on control classrooms in the spring of years 2013, 2014, and 2015, at the same time as many NYC pre-k initiatives were rolled out. Descriptive analyses suggest a jump in the amount of math instruction between 2013 and 2015, with an average of 15.8 minutes of math per three-hour observation in spring 2013 and an average of 22.7 minutes in spring 2015. These changes seem to be more prominent in community-based settings than in public schools. The presentation will provide additional descriptive findings from this math observation in control classrooms experiencing this large-scale change.

MPC data provide a unique opportunity to describe classrooms while pre-k initiatives were being rolled out in NYC during 2013-2015. This presentation will focus on how the richness of these data and their overlap with the City’s pre-k priorities and initiatives can and have helped support and inform the City’s efforts for program monitoring and measure creation.