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 Benefits?

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 from Middle to 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). 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) into high school (e.g., from 8th to 9th grade).

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, 80% English 20% 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.

Degree of Bilingualism, Behavior Problems, Executive Functioning, and Private Speech Use

A group of 80 5- to 7-year-old children falling into three groups (monolingual English, bilingual English-Spanish, and Spanish speaking children still learning English) completed a battery of executive function tasks (go/no-go task (GNG), the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task (HTKS), the Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS), the Simon task, and the Tower of London (TOL). Parents completed surveys on children’s language background, EF, and behavior problems. We are currently analyzing whether children's private speech in English and Spanish relate to their executive functioning and degree of bilingualism.

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.

Outcomes Associated with Elementary School Mobility for Low-Income, Ethnically Diverse Children

Using data from the MSRP, we are examining the potential negative academic outcomes associated with switching schools between K and 5th grade, controlling for all the selection factors - the known ways in which students who do and do not switch schools are different initially before they move schools (poverty status, gender, ELL and disability status, school readiness and prior achievement, and pre-move school quality).

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, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses in middle school and high school. We are examining what selection factors are related to access 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.

Predictors and Outcomes of School Mobility from Pre-K to Kindergarten

Research suggests that attending public school pre-k is more strongly associated with positive later outcomes for children compared to other types of pre-k (e.g., family or private childcare). One theory for why this might be the case is that attending public school pre-k, which is often located at the same school that children will attend when they start kindergarten, allows for more stability in the early learning environment. The purpose of this project is to explore the predictors and outcomes of early school mobility between pre-k and kindergarten for students who attended public school pre-k. This project will explore the overall prevalence of mobility in these early years, which children are moving, what types of moves they make (i.e., to a better- or worse-performing school), and whether children who stay at the same school have better later outcomes compared to those who move.