Self-regulation intervention improves school readiness

Adding a self-regulation intervention to a school readiness programme can improve self-regulation, early academic skills and school readiness in children at higher risk for later school difficulties, according to the results of a study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Robert J Duncan and colleagues looked at the effect of adding a self-regulation intervention to the Bridge to Kindergarten (B2K) programme – a three-week summer school-readiness programme – in the US state of Oregon. The B2K programme is aimed at children with no prior preschool experience, and therefore considered to be at risk for later school difficulties.

Children from three to five years old were randomly assigned to either a control group (B2K only) or the intervention group (B2K plus intervention). Children in the intervention group received two 20- to 30-minute sessions per week, involving movement and music-based games that encouraged them to practise self-regulation skills.

Results from this randomised controlled trial indicated that children who received the intervention scored higher on measures of self-regulation than children who participated in the B2K programme alone. There were no significant effects on maths or literacy at the end of the programme. However, four months into kindergarten, children from the intervention group showed increased growth in self-regulation, maths and literacy compared to expected development.

Source: Combining a kindergarten readiness summer program with a self-regulation intervention improves school readiness (November 2017) Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 42, 1st Quarter 2018

Least restrictive…for whom?

Numerous studies show the academic and social benefits for children with emotional and behavioural disorders (EBD) of including them in classes with children who do not have these issues. Few studies, however, examine the effects of this inclusion on their non-disabled classmates.

Given that children who have EBD often cause disruptions, and that disruptions are associated with reduced student engagement, Michael Gottfried, Anna Egalite, and J Jacob Kirksey recently examined the correlation between the absentee rate of non-disabled kindergartners (Year 1) who had peers with EBD in their classrooms with those who didn’t.

Subjects were the nationally representative sample of kindergartners used in the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study 2010-2011, a study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Results showed more annual absences in classes that included peers with an EBD than in classes that didn’t. The incidences of chronic absence were also higher for students who had an EBD classmate. Patterns emerged for absent students: girls were more likely to be absent than boys, as were non-ELL and higher-income students. Patterns also emerged showing that students with EBD classmates were less likely to be absent when they had teachers with more experience, teachers certified in special education, or teachers who spent more time on discipline. They found that including children with other types of disabilities did not cause the same types of disruptions as including those with EBDs.

Source: Does the Presence of a Classmate with Emotional/behavioral Disabilities Link to Other Students’ Absences in Kindergarten? (2016), Early Childhood Research Quarterly 

What counts for future success in maths?

Which preschool maths competencies are most important for later maths achievement? A new study in Early Childhood Research Quarterly attempts to answer this question for low-income and minority children.

The research looked at 781 children who completed the Research-based Early Mathematics Assessment (REMA) in preschool and a further maths assessment in fifth grade. The children came from diverse classrooms in New York and Boston, with 53% of the children African-American and 83% qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.

Using state-defined preschool mathematics standards documents, the researchers classified the REMA into a number of domains of mathematical knowledge:

  • Counting and cardinality – basic counting (rote counting, number recognition, one-to-one correspondence) and advanced counting (cardinality, counting forward and back)
  • Patterning – extend and duplicate patterns
  • Geometry – identify, compare, and compose shapes
  • Measurement and data – recognize shapes and identify their attributes by measurement

All the domains were significantly predictive of later achievement, suggesting that children rely on multiple domains of early knowledge when developing later skills. However, counting and numeracy skills, particularly advanced counting skills, were most predictive of later achievement. Early numeracy was predictive of later mathematics achievement while also controlling measurement and data, geometry, and patterning. This suggests that, at least for this group of children, early numeracy was the most predictive of later mathematics ability.

Source: Which preschool mathematics competencies are most predictive of fifth grade achievement? (2016), Early Childhood Research Quarterly

INSIGHTS on socioeconomic disadvantage and challenging temperaments

A paper on the impact of the INSIGHTS programme looks at its effect on the behaviour of kindergarten and first grade (Year 1 and Year 2) children in the US with high-maintenance temperaments (see also Best Evidence in Brief 74). The goal of the INSIGHTS programme is to train teachers and parents to recognise children’s personality types and adjust the learning environment as needed.

Data collected at five time points using direct observations, teacher reports, and parent reports revealed moderate impacts on reducing disruptive behaviours (effect size 0.42) and off-task behaviours (effect size 0.33) and increasing behavioural engagement (effect size 0.35). These effects were larger than in a previous study, which led the authors to consider whether children at highest risk (such as in the current study) were most likely to benefit from such interventions.

Source: Getting a Good Start in School: Effects of INSIGHTS on Children with High Maintenance Temperaments (2015), Early Childhood Research Quarterly

Short-term academic benefits from early childhood programmes

A new article in Early Childhood Research Quarterly has analysed the academic benefits of different types of formal early childhood programmes for children ages 4 and 5 in Australia. This included pre-year 1 (the first year of full-time formal schooling), school-based preschool, stand-alone preschool, and centre-based child care.

Children who did not attend any early childhood programmes lagged behind their peers in school readiness skills. However, by middle childhood all the early skill advantages had disappeared, showing rapid fadeout of academic benefits acquired from these specific types of early childhood programmes.

Of those who did attend programmes, the authors found that children who attended pre-year 1 held an initial, significant advantage in early academic skills, which they consider unsurprising as pre-year 1 is full-time formal schooling. The authors found little difference in terms of early academic skills between either type of preschool programme and centre child care, but there are difficulties in direct comparison. Although teachers in preschools have higher average qualifications compared to child care centres, preschool children spend far fewer hours in their programmes.

The data used in the research came from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). LSAC follows two cohorts of children, an infant cohort of children born between March 2003 and February 2004, and a child cohort who were between 4- and 5-years-old in 2004. Only the child cohort was used in this analysis, a nationally representative sample of 4,983 children.

Source: The Role of Early Childhood Settings for 4–5 year-old Children in Early Academic Skills and Later Achievement in Australia, Early Childhood Research Quarterly 29(4).

Maternal supportiveness boosts school readiness

A new article in Early Childhood Research Quarterly investigates two aspects of children’s school readiness: interest in new cognitive tasks and persistence in task completion. The study examined these two behaviours at ages one, two, and three in a large multi-site sample, using data on 1,771 low-income children taken from the US Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project. The authors looked at whether interest and persistence are linked to academic skills at school entry, and found that children’s interest and persistence at age three predicted academic achievement at age five.

The article also explored the impact of parenting on these behaviours. During videotaped play sessions, mothers were rated on scales of sensitivity (taking the child’s perspective, accurate perception of the child’s signals, prompt and appropriate responses to these signals), and stimulation of cognitive development (teaching or actively trying to expand the child’s abilities). The authors found that maternal supportiveness predicted higher levels of interest and persistence between the ages of one and three, with both behaviours more responsive to parenting between ages one and two than two and three.

Children from underprivileged backgrounds generally enter school lagging behind their peers on a range of indicators. The article concludes that although relatively little attention has been paid to the early development of these particular learning behaviours – interest and persistence – they might prove worthy of intervention before school entry, particularly when children are aged one

Source: Longitudinal Associations Among Interest, Persistence, Supportive Parenting, and Achievement in Early Childhood (2013), Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(4).