Current Research Projects

The Effect of Subsidized Child Care and Public School Pre-K on the School Readiness and Long-Term Academic Outcomes of Diverse, Low-Income, Urban Preschoolers: The Miami School Readiness Project (MSRP)

This exciting large-scale, university-community partnership, program evaluation, and applied research project involves maintenance and development of the master database for all child-level, classroom-level, child care center-level, and family-level data involved in the Assessment-Intervention Program, sponsored by the Miami-Dade School Readiness Coalition with support from The Children's Trust. In this project, for 5 years (2012-2007), about 58,000 4-year old low-income children (approximately 60% Latino,30% African American, and 10% white/other) attending state-subsidized child care facilities (center-based, family daycares, informal care, and public school pre-k programs) were individually assessed (in English and Spanish) on their cognitive, language, and motor skills at the beginning (PRE) and end (POST) of the school year. Also, parents and teachers rate children's socio-emotional skills and behavior problems at PRE and POST. The children are still being followed longitudinally as they progress through high school in Miami-Dade County Public Schools with a wide variety of school records outcome data available through 12th grade.

Middle and High School Arts Electives Among Low-Income, Ethnically Diverse Students in Miami: Who Takes Them, for How Long, and What are the Academic Outcomes?

Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), this exciting project is examining 1) child, family, and school predictors of low-income minority youth selecting arts elective courses in middle school, and 2) whether youth who take arts courses do better in school than those who do not, controlling for the selection factors identified in #1. Using data from the Miami School Readiness Project, about 32,000 children (60% Latino, 33% Black, 7% White/Other, 85% in poverty) are reaching 6th, 7th, or 8th grade and 20-25% of them are enrolling in some kind of arts elective course (i.e., band, orchestra, choir, drama, dance, art). Predictor variables include child gender, ethnicity, ELL and disability status, initial school readiness, 5th grade GPA and test scores; family size, marital status, maternal education, free lunch and immigrant status; and school size, quality, resources, and ethnic distribution. We will see if arts classes are linked with better outcomes for at-risk youth (GPA, test scores, attendance, retention, suspension, and drop out).

Who Continues to Take Music?: Examining Predictors of Music Persistence Across Middle and High School

There are known differences between music- and non-music-takers (i.e., selection), but little is known about the students who continue to take music (i.e., persistence). Using survival analysis, this study will examine if known selection effects into initial music enrollment (e.g., gender, ethnicity, poverty status, ELL status, ESE status, prior academic achievement, etc.) also predict continued music taking (i.e., band, chorus, guitar, orchestra) across middle and high school (from 6th to 12th grade). To see a podcast produced by the NEA that highlights this project, click here.

Arts Elective Course Selection Among High School Students with Disabilities

Previously, our lab has discovered that students with disabilities, within our large, ethnically diverse, low-income sample, are nearly half as likely to enroll in arts elective courses in middle school compared to their non-disabled peers. This masters thesis project analyzes the rates of selection into the arts among students with disabilities to verify if this effect persists into high school. Additionally, this project is the first to specifically investigate art elective selection rates based on specific types of disabilities (i.e., LD, ASD, Speech/Language disorders, etc.) and specific types of arts electives (music, dance, drama, visual art).

Teacher-Child Relationships from Kindergarten to 3rd Grade for Latine Students in Dual Language Programs

This thesis explores teacher-child relationships using data from the Bilingualism, Education, and Excellence (BEE) project, which examined how the language of instruction used in two-way immersion programs (i.e., 50% Spanish 50% English, 90% English 10% Spanish) in North Carolina K-3rd grade classrooms. Specifically, Diego's thesis seeks to test if ethnicity match (i.e., teacher-child dyads with the same ethnicity) is associated with the degree of teacher-child relationships' closeness and conflict, and if this association is influenced by grade.

Race, Gender, and Income Differences in Primary Exceptionality Status Over Time

This undergraduate honors thesis uses data from the MSRP to examine changes in primary exceptionality status over time from kindergarten through 12th grade, whilst also examining any differences in initial placement and changes in primary exceptionality pertaining to race, gender and income. There has been conflicting research on whether race or income has a greater correlation to exceptionality placement, as well as contradictory research suggesting both over and under-representation for minoritized individuals with primary exceptionalities. This project will help clarify the degree to which race or income impacts exceptionality placement by measuring both race and depth of poverty. There has been little research examining the changes in and / or between primary exceptionality status over time in grade school, and even less research examining said changes whilst including race, gender, and income as potential contributing factors.

Two-Way (Spanish-English) Immersion Bilingual Education Classrooms: Language of Instruction, Student Engagement, Motivation, Student-Teacher Relationships, and Academic and Language Outcomes for Students

This exciting 3-year project just funded by the Institute for Education Sciences (IES), is examining how the language of instruction used in two-way immersion programs (i.e., 50% Spanish 50% English, 90% English 10% Spanish) in North Carolina K-3rd grade classrooms matters for student learning, engagement and motivation in classrooms and their eventual English and Spanish language outcomes. Also examined is whether DLL student initial language competence in Spanish and English moderate all of the above. This research is in collaboration with Drs. Doré LaForett and Ximena Franco at the FPG center at University of North Carolina. See more info related to this project here.

Middle School Outcomes Related to Earlier English Language Acquisition in Dual Language Learners

Using MSRP data, this study investigates how the speed at which young Dual Language Learners (DLLs) acquire English proficiency (typically in elementary school) is uniquely associated with later middle school educational outcomes (grade retention, GPA, math and reading test scores in 6th through 8th grade). Importantly, we control for many important variables associated with both English acquisition speed and later academic achievement, such as SES, race, gender, disability status, and child school readiness skills at age four.

Cumulative effects of poverty stability, duration, and intensity in elementary school on later academic outcomes

Using the Miami School Readiness Project longitudinal data set, this project aims to describe poverty status from Kindergarten through 5th-grade, and across repeated grades for retained students. We describe intensity, stability, and mobility over time for this large and ethnically diverse sample of students. We also examine how the intensity and duration of poverty over time relate to 5th-grade academic outcomes. Essentially, how well do measures of timing, cumulative duration, and intensity of poverty across elementary schools predict 5th-grade academics while controlling for student readiness at school entry?

Neighborhood Poverty and Violence, School Readiness, and 3rd Grade Academic Achievement

A large amount of work has dedicated itself to understanding how publicly funded early childcare, and education centers promote children's school readiness and early development. Less work has contextualized centers within the communities in which they are nested. Previous research has found that children in low-SES neighborhoods are less prepared for school than those in affluent neighborhoods. Low-SES neighborhoods may also expose children to more risk factors (such as such as violence and crime) associated with decreased academic performance. This current project investigates the relationship between neighborhood SES, the prevalence of crime, and pre-k to 3rd academic outcomes using data from the Census, Miami School Readiness Project, and the National Neighborhood Crime Study.

Who Gets In?: Selection into Advanced Courses among Low-Income, Ethnically Diverse Youth

This project uses MSRP data to look at who among low-income, ethnically diverse students are taking advanced, honors, and college level courses in middle school and high school. We are examining what factors are related to access and persistence in these courses with a specific emphasis on poverty and ethnicity. The major early childhood factors of interest are demographic factors (ethnicity, free and reduced lunch status, English language learner status, disability status), school readiness (cognitive, language, motor, social and behavioral skills at school entry), and prior competence (standardized test scores and GPA).

Catch Them While They're Young?: The Association between Early Grade Retention and Later Academic Outcomes

This project uses the MSRP to examine students' experiences with grade retention in elementary school. As states continue to implement and use mandatory retention policies in 3rd grade, schools are increasingly retaining students in earlier years (kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade) in the hopes of "protecting" students from later retention. However, with mixed findings among studies, research has yet to clearly determine whether early retention is indeed more beneficial to students' long-term outcomes compared to later retention. As such, this project will address the association between timing of retention in elementary school and later academic outcomes such as meeting grade-level benchmarks and whether retention timing is associated with subsequent retention in later grades.

Exploring the "Gift of Time:" Outcomes Associated with Delayed School Entry and Kindergarten Retention

With increased rigor and accountability standards in elementary school, the kindergarten curriculum has similarly become more demanding. These increased demands have augmented concerns that young children may not be able to cope with the demands of formal schooling. One way to address concerns about school readiness is by altering a child’s academic progression through delayed kindergarten entry or kindergarten retention. Both of these interventions, often referred to as the “gift of time,” are grounded in the assumption that children who are not deemed ready to start formal schooling or progress to the 1st grade will benefit from an extra year to mature or develop grade-appropriate skills. However, there is evidence that delayed entry occurs more often with children from more affluent families, whereas retention occurs more often with disadvantaged children. From an equity standpoint, it is important to understand how interventions that are used with different groups of children are related to later academic success. Further, it is unclear to what extent these altered progressions are effective for children with disabilities. As such, the purpose of the proposed project is to explore how children who experience an altered kindergarten progression compare to each other as well as their on-time peers throughout elementary school and whether academic outcomes following these varied progressions are moderated by disability status.

Intersectional Effects of Race and Gender on the Age of Special Education Service Receipt for Autistic Children

The potential intersectional effects due to race and gender on the age at which autistic children first begin receiving special education services for autism in the public schools is being explored within the MSRP. While there has been research suggesting there are differential ages of diagnosis for autism between different genders, the research regarding the difference between different race/ethnicity groups is mixed. In addition, there has not been extensive research examining the intersection of race and gender. Importantly, we control for factors such as poverty status, ELL status, and behavioral and cognitive functioning at age 4.