Objective: To evaluate the impact of an early childhood, family-centered, school-based intervention on children's kindergarten academic achievement.
Methods: This was a cluster (school) randomized controlled trial with assessments from pre-kindergarten (pre-k) entry through the end of kindergarten. The setting was 10 public elementary schools with 26 pre-k classes in 2 school districts in urban disadvantaged neighborhoods serving a largely black, low-income population. Participants were 1050 black and Latino, low-income children (age 4; 88% of pre-k population) enrolled in 10 schools over 4 years. Universal intervention aimed to promote self-regulation and early learning by strengthening positive behavior support and effective behavior management at home and school, and increasing parent involvement in education. Intervention included after-school group sessions for families of pre-k students (13 2-hour sessions; co-led by pre-k teachers) and professional development for pre-k and kindergarten teachers. The outcome measures were standardized test scores of kindergarten reading, writing, and math achievement by independent evaluators masked to intervention condition (primary outcome); developmental trajectories of teacher-rated academic performance from pre-k through kindergarten (secondary outcome).
Results: Relative to children in control schools, children in intervention schools had higher kindergarten achievement test scores (Cohen's d = 0.18, mean difference = 2.64, SE = 0.90, P = .03) and higher teacher-rated academic performance (Cohen's d = 0.25, mean difference = 5.65, SE = 2.34, P = .01).
Conclusions: Early childhood population-level intervention that enhances both home and school environments shows promise to advance academic achievement among minority children from disadvantaged, urban neighborhoods.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01670227.
Keywords: academic achievement; early childhood; family intervention; poverty.