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The role of elementary school and home quality in the persistence of pre-kindergarten quality effects

Sat, March 23, 8:00 to 9:30am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 3, Room 329

Integrative Statement

A robust literature indicates that responsive and cognitively stimulating teacher-child interactions in pre-kindergarten (pre-K) classrooms are critical in supporting children’s development and learning (e.g., Hamre et al., 2012; Howes et al., 2008; Mashburn et al., 2008; Yoshikawa et al., 2013). However, researchers know relatively little about the role of elementary school and home quality in the persistence effects of the quality of pre-K teacher-child interactions (what we call “pre-K quality”) on academic achievement across elementary school, in part because most studies do not include the necessary data on children’s post pre-K environments to examine these questions. According to the bioecological system (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006) and developmental cascades (Cunha & Heckman, 2007; Masten & Cicchetti, 2010) theories of development, children learn from social interactions with supportive adults, and subsequent enriching learning environments are necessary for children’s developmental capacities to increase.

Prior research has investigated the potential moderating role of kindergarten or elementary environment quality (e.g., Jenkins et al., 2015; Zhai, Raver, & Jones, 2012). Using matching methods, for example, Zhai and colleagues (2012) found that when children subsequently attended high-performing schools, effects of pre-K were more likely to be sustained. When children attended low-performing schools, effects disappeared more quickly. Although it is logical to assume a moderating role of the home environment as children’s development is shaped by their multiple contextual influences (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006), no work has yet investigated this relationship. This gap is significant as the effects of pre-K quality on children’s academic achievement can be maintained, enhanced, or deflected by exposure to later learning experiences in both the school and home environments (e.g., Masten & Cicchetti, 2010).

Using a sample of 826 children from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, a series of two-level mixed-effects models were fit to investigate the long-term effects of pre-K quality on academic achievement, and how effects vary by the quality of the elementary school and home environment. Observational assessments of responsive and stimulating teacher-child interaction were obtained at 54 months (ORCE; NICHD ECCRN, 2002). Quality of the elementary school was measured at first, third, and fifth grades using the Classroom Observation System (COS; Pianta et al., 2008). The quality and quantity of support and stimulation for children provided at home and maternal sensitivity, as an aspect of parent-child play interactions, measured at first, third, and fifth grades, reflected quality of the elementary home environment (HOME; Caldwell & Bradley, 1984; NICHD ECCRN, 2002). Children’s academic achievement was assessed at first, third, and fifth grades using the Woodcock Johnson Psychoeducational Battery-Revised (Woodcock & Johnson, 1989), with three subtests: Applied Problems, Letter-Word Identification, and Picture Vocabulary.

Results indicate the effects of pre-K quality vary as a function of the quality of the elementary home environment. Specifically, there is an additive effect between high levels of pre-K quality and high levels of elementary home environment. Findings suggest the need for policies that provide home visiting and home-based intervention to sustain the long-term academic effects of pre-K quality.

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