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Professional Development in Early Childhood Education: Lessons Gleaned from the Foundations
of Learning Project


Chrishana M. Lloyd, PhD, MDRC

2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template
                                                  Abstract Body
                                             Limit 5 pages single spaced.

Description of prior research and/or its intellectual context and/or its policy context.

Long-term studies indicate that quality preschool services offer significant benefits to
disadvantaged children in the areas of lifetime educational attainment, earnings, and employment
(Schweinhart et al., 2005; U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2003). Research also
suggests that many children from disadvantaged backgrounds lack the social and emotional skills
necessary to thrive in the preschool environment (Blanchard, Gurka, & Blackman, 2006;
Fantuzzo, Bulotsky, McDermott, Mosca, & Lutz, 2003; Qi & Kaiser, 2003; Raver & Knitzer,
2002). Children with low levels of social competence and high rates of behavior problems
represent an especially large percentage of school districts’ high-expenditure pupils (Chambers,
Kidron, & Spain, 2004). These children are more likely to repeat a grade early in elementary
school (Beebe-Frankenberger, Bocian, MacMillan, & Gresham, 2004), and to receive special
education services (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005; Wagner & Blackorby, 2002).
They are also expelled at higher rates (Gilliam, 2005), and in addition to limiting their own
learning, children with behavioral challenges inhibit the learning of peers by distracting and
diverting teacher attention away from other students (Arnold, McWilliams, & Arnold, 1998;
Raver, 2002).

Evidence from teachers supports this concern; preschool teachers in low- income neighborhoods
report that between 15 and 30 percent of the young children in their classrooms exhibit clinically
high levels of disruptive and challenging behaviors (Gross, Sambrook, & Fogg, 1999;
Kuperschmidt, Bryant, & Willoughby, 2000; Rimm-Kaufman, Pianta, & Cox, 2000). Moreover,
a nominal number (between 1-10%) receive services for these difficulties (Kazdin & Kendall,
1998; Pottick & Warner, 2002). In general, educators have limited knowledge and receive very
little training about how to address these issues (Weist, 2005). Consequences for teachers include
a decrease in overall job satisfaction and increased levels of stress, burnout, and teacher turnover
(Joseph, Strain, & Skinner, 2003).

Purpose/objective/research question/focus of study:
Description of what the research focused on and why.

The national debate currently underway between expansions in preschool education services and
increased accountability of those services to help children enter school ready to learn should be
informed by well-designed studies that provide much needed evidence about the utility of
approaches to resolving these issues. The Foundations of Learning (FOL) demonstration project
is the first step in a larger research agenda that will provide this evidence. C lassroom-based
interventions offer an under- utilized domain in which to target young children’s emotional and
behavioral adjustment; and there are few rigorous studies about how to address children’s
problem behaviors in the classroom that provide the kind of definitive information needed to
guide policy and practice for preschool education.

2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template                                                             1
Specific description of where the research took place.

FOL emerged from early lessons from the Chicago School Readiness Project (CSRP), a
randomized trial of 18 Head Start centers directed by Dr. Cybele Raver that tested the
effectiveness of a uniquely designed two-pronged integrated strategy that combined teacher
training and classroom consultation (most models only utilize one of these methods). The FOL
project was launched in Newark, NJ, in two phases: a smaller-scale pilot phase during the 2006-
2007 school year, followed by a second larger scale phase in the 2007-2008, school year.

Description of participants in the study: who (or what) how many, key features (or characteristics).

The final full scale FO L project included a total of 51 Head Start, public school, and privately
operated preschool programs. Principals and Site Directors were asked to choose a single four-
year-old classroom within their school or center to participate and each of the 51 class rooms was
randomly assigned to either the treatment or control condition (See Table 1.1 for FOL Project

Inte rvention/Program/Practice:
Specific description of the intervention, including what it was, how it was administered , and its duration.

Throughout the course of an academic year (September-May), treatment classrooms received the

1. Teacher Training: Lead and Assistant Teachers were invited to attend five six- hour training
   sessions designed to provide teachers with concrete strategies for addressing challenging
   behaviors and developing positive relationships with their students. The training was based
   on Carolyn Webster Stratton’s Incredible Years curriculum and included role-playing,
   vignettes, small- group discussions, and structured planning time for teachers.
2. Classroom Consultation: Treatment classrooms were assigned a Master’s level Clinical
   Classroom Consultant (CCC) to work with them on managing challenging behavior in the
   classroom. The goal of the classroom consultatio n model was to provide a resource to help
   teachers implement the strategies learned at the training and to provide one-on-one clinical
   interventions for children at highest risk.
3. Stress Management: During the winter, the CCC and the CCC Coordinator provided
   customized Stress Management Workshops for all program teachers. The workshops were
   designed to help teachers identify sources of stress and develop concrete strategies for
   addressing them while maintaining a positive atmosphere in the classroom. In the months
   leading up to and following the workshop, the CCCs helped reinforce the stress management
   skills and techniques with teachers.

Though the intervention components are the same as CSRP, the FOL demonstration project
differed in a number of ways: (1) While CSRP was a university based intervention, FOL was
embedded into an already existing service delivery framework, (2) because of legislation specific
to New Jersey, preschool programs operated in all three different venues – schools, private
community-based facilities, and Head Start sites, which ensured representation of a broad a

2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template                                                                         2
broad set of early childhood educational contexts, (3) FOL researchers built in additional layers
of oversight and evaluation to ensure that the intervention was responsive to participants needs,
and that research questions about program implementation, fidelity, and replication processes
could be answered (please see Appendix B for a timeline of the intervention services).

Research Design:
Description of research design (e.g., qualitative case study, quasi-experimental design, secondary analysis, analytic
essay, randomized field trial).

Like CSRP, the FOL project used a randomized experimental-control design to assess the impact
of the model, the program group received the full, integrated intervention combining teacher
training with classroom consultation, and the control condition continued their standard program
operations without any enhanced services. In addition, a qualitative research component was
added to better understand the implementation and replication processes.

Data Collection and Analysis:
Description of plan for collecting and analyzing data, including description of data.

This paper will present findings from implementation research conducted as part of t he project.
The following questions served as guidelines for implementation research activities:
1. Dosage
        a. What dosage of the intervention did teachers actually receive?
        b. What was the pattern of consultation in sites?
2. Fidelity
        a. How closely did the intervention follow the model?
        b. How was fidelity maintained?
3. Quality
        a. How did teachers rate the key components of the intervention?
4. Adoption of Strategies
        a. What processes led to successful teacher implementation and continuing use of the
           intervention in the classroom?

In order to answer the aforementioned questions, the research team utilized a wide and diverse
pool of data sources. They included: administrative data, field observations and regularly
scheduled meetings, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, participant surveys and evaluations,
and systematized field documentation by clinical classroom consultants. Interview data was
analyzed using a grounded theory approach with NVivo software as an analysis tool.

Description of main findings with specific details.

        We find high levels of dosage of the teacher training. The large majority of lead
         teachers attended the full dosage of the program.
        Ratings of teacher satisfaction with the trainings we re quite high. Exit surveys
         conducted at the end of each training session found that between 92 percent and 94
         percent of the teachers strongly agreed that the training content was clear, the training
         environment was conducive to learning, the trainers themselves were effective and clear,
         and the training enhanced the teachers’ professional development.

2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template                                                                              3
       We also find high levels of classroom consultation. Clinical Classroom Consultants
        (CCCs) were placed for one day per week in treatment classrooms. Consultants provided
        an average 168 hours of consultation services per classroom over the course of the
        academic year.

The research team conducted a series of qualitative interviews with teachers to understand the
key elements of effective program implementation. Four themes emerged that are identified
below: (1) collaborative relationships; (2) clear and concrete behavioral strategies; (3) immediate
feedback; and (4) learning community.
       Collaborative relationships were fostered. Probably one of the biggest strengths of the
        FOL program was the collaborative relationships that the program engendered (1)
        between the Clinical Classroom Consultants (CCCs) and the teachers, and (2) between
        the lead and assistant teachers within the classroom.
            o A number of teachers pointed to the strength and quality of the relationship
              between the CCCs and the teachers as critical to the program’s success. As one
              teacher succinctly stated, “I think that the CCC position is to work with the
              teacher, the teacher’s assistant, and the 15 children that she has. She’s there to
              help the teachers and the children,… [not to] evaluate or criticize.”
            o Both lead and assistant teachers reported that participation in FOL helped to
              improve relationships between the two, resulting in more discussion and
              collaboration about classroom goals. One teaching assistant stated, “I’ve been
              with the Newark Board for 37 years, and this is the first training that I’ve ever
              had with my teacher. I’ve always had trainings, like, my teacher goes first and
              then you go, maybe months later. And when you come back, nobody shares
              anything. So I don’t know what the training was about and she doesn’t — nobody
              says anything. [Now] we talk together. We work out strategies together. It just
              seems like this is working. And it’s never been like that in the past.”
       The training focused on clear behavioral strategies that were useful to teachers’
        daily practice. Teachers reported being particularly drawn to the material presented in
        the context of this intervention, in part because of its relevance to their teaching practice.
        A teacher’s assistant stated, “One thing that this program has is — see, we’ve been in a
        lot of trainings in preschool; we’ve seen a lot of theories. This book…will go with me…
        I’m going to make sure that I follow that book. Why? Because it’s not only theories, it’s
        practice. …It’s very important to me [that] it’s not coming from theories; it’s coming
        from practice.”
       The inte rvention was strengthened by feedback teachers received both from the
        consultant and from the children.
            o When asked about what pieces of the intervention they found especially useful,
              the majority were very clear that the regular presence of the consultant and the
              ongoing guidance and feedback they provided was a key feature of the model that
              they found valuable. One teacher stated, “I’ve been through a lot of
              trainings….eight-hour trainings, four-hour trainings, but you can’t just apply all
              that stuff on your own. Somebody with a little bit more experience has to come in

2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template                                                                   4
                 and give you a helping hand on it…without that piece it wouldn’t work as
            o Teachers were excited that they saw the strategies working with the children in
              their classrooms and that the children themselves were internalizing what they
              learned and sharing it with each other and the teachers. One school-based teacher
              stated,“…The CCC and I went over the first two [strategies] and on the next week
              she came back, we had them all. And not because I sat there drilling the kids; it's
              just that they were interested in doing it. And then even one of the students, when
              my assistant was out, she was out for medical reasons, the little girl taught her.
              She self-taught the paraprofessional, which is very good, and she [the assistant
              teacher] was very inspired by that.…”
       Teachers also found the intervention helped to facilitate the development of a
        learning community. The creation of this community happened in a number of ways and
        was described by teachers as a continuous process of learning, doing, reflection, and
        feedback. This learning process occurred in both formal and more informal ways:
        “…during the children’s rest time we [the teacher, teacher assistant, and the CCC] sit
        down; we talk about any issues that may have taken place during the day and how I
        approached them or my aide approached them, and what we could’ve done differently, or
        we also talk about plans and strategies she also assists on.”

Description of conclusions and recommendations of author(s) based on findings and over study. (To support the
theme of 2009 conference, authors are asked to describe how their conclusions and recommendations might inform
one or more of the above noted decisions—curriculum, teaching and teaching quality, school organization , and
education policy.)

The results of this project come at an especially critical time: New advances in neuroscience
have increased the public’s understanding of the early development years’ importance, and
policymakers have become increasingly focused on the role of early education in increasing
preschool children’s readiness for school. Evidence from both research and policy suggest that
child-serving agencies are in dire need of guidance on ways to deliver quality improvement
services such as teacher training and clinical classroom consultation. We hope that information
from the FOL project will provide a clear “road map” for program improvement in early
education and care by helping preschool programs and policy makers understand what factors
might be considered for quality program replication at scale which has heretofore been a
considerable challenge.

2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template                                                                           5

Appendix A. References

       Arnold, D. H., McWilliams, L., & Arnold, E. H. (1998). Teacher discipline and child
misbehavior in preschool: Untangling causality with correlational data. Developmental
Psychology, 34, 276-287
       Beebe-Frankenberger, M., Bocian, K. M., MacMillan, D. L., & Gresham, F. M. (2004).
Sorting second-grade students: Differentiating those retained from those promoted. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 96, 204-215.
       Blanchard, L. T., Gurka, M. J., & Blackman, J. A. (2006). Emotional, developmental, and
behavioral health of American children and their families: A report from the 2003 National
Survey of Children’s Health. Pediatrics, 117(6), e1202-e1212.
       Chambers, J. G., Kidron, Y., & Spain, A. K. (2004). Characteristics of high-expenditure
students with disabilities, 1999 – 2000. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.
       Fantuzzo, J., Bulotsky, R., McDermott, P., Mosca, S., & Lutz, M. N. (2003). A
multivariate analysis of emotional and behavioral adjustment and preschool educational
outcomes. School Psychology Review, 32(2), 185-203.
       Gilliam, W. (2005). Prekindergarteners left behind: Expulsion rates in state
prekindergarten systems. New Haven: Yale University Child Study Center.
         Gross, D., Sambrook, A., & Fogg, L. (1999). Behavior Problems among young children
in low- income urban day care. Research in Nursing & Health, 22, 15-25.
         Joseph, G. E., Strain, P. S., & Skinner, B. (2003). Early care and education professionals’
beliefs, practices and skills regarding young children with challenging behavior: A survey.
Unpublished raw data, University of Colorado at Denver.
        Kazdin, A. E., & Kendall, P. C. (1998). Current progress and future plans for developing
effective treatments: Comments and perspectives. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27(2),
       Kuperschmidt, J. B., Bryant, D., & Willoughby, M. (2000). Prevalence of aggressive
behaviors among preschoolers in Head Start and community child care programs. Behavioral
Disorders, 26, 42-52.
        National Center for Health Statistics. (2005). NCHS data about special education.
Atlanta, GA: Center for Disease Control.
        Pottick, K. J., & Warner, L. A. (2002). More than 115,000 disadvantaged preschoolers
receive mental health services. Update: Latest Findings in Children’s Mental Health. Policy
Report Vol.1(2) submitted to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. New Brunswick, NJ: Institute for
Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers University.
      Qi, C., & Kaiser, A. P. (2003). Behavior problems of preschool children from low-
income families: Review of the literature. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23(4),

2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template                                                           A–1
       Raver, C. C. (2002). Emotions matter: Making the case for the role of young children’s
emotional development for early school readiness. Social Policy Reports.
        Raver, C. C., & Knitzer, J. (2002). Ready to enter: What research tells policymakers
about strategies to promote social and emotional school readiness among three- and four-year-
old children. New York, NY: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University
Mailman School of Public Health.
        Rimm-Kaufman, S., Pianta, R., & Cox, M. (2000). Teachers’ judgments of problems in
the transition to Kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15, 147-166.
        Schweinhart, L. J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z. Barnett, W. S., Belfield, C. R., & Nores, M.
(2005). Lifetime effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through age 40. Ypsilanti, MI:
High/Scope Press.
        U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
(2003). Early Head Start Research and Evaluation (EHSRE) Study, 1996-2001. Princeton, NJ:
Mathematica Policy Research.
       Wagner, M., & Blackorby, J. (2002). Disability profiles of elementary and middle school
students with disabilities. Washington, DC: Office of Special Education Programs, U.S.
Department of Education.
       Weist, M. D. (2005). Fulfilling the promise of school-based mental health: Moving
toward a public mental health promotion approach. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 6,

2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template                                                      A–2
Appendix B. Tables and Figures

                                      Foundations of Learning Project
                                                  Table 1.0
                                      Timeline of Intervention Services






                                                    Stress                    One-on-One
                     Teacher                        Management                Services      Termination

                                                 Consulting by CCCs

                                       Foundations of Learning Project
                                                 Table 1.1
                                         Progression of the Project
                                                                                     FOL Pilot    FOL Full-Scale
                                                                      CSRP            Newark            Newark

Timeline                                                           2004-2006        2006-2007         2007-2008

Total number of sites                                                     18               17                51
  Program                                                                  9                9                26
  Control                                                                  9                8                25
Total number of classrooms                                                36               17                51

Head Start (%)                                                          100                30                25

Co mmunity-Based (%)                                                          0            35                53

School-Based (%)                                                              0            35                22


2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template                                                                       B–1
2009 SREE Conference Abstract Template

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