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Summer Kindergarten Transition Program Shows Lasting Positive Impact on Student Attendance, Literacy Skills

April 24, 2017

A new five-year retrospective evaluation study found that students who participated in an Early Kindergarten Transition (EKT) program showed higher attendance rates and higher early literacy skills when compared to their non-participating peers. What’s more, these trends continued over time, in kindergarten and later grades.

The targeted intervention, offered in 14 Title I elementary schools in Oregon’s Portland Public Schools system, is designed to help families with students who may struggle with the transition to kindergarten. These are primarily children who have not had a structured preschool experience, have a primary language other than English, or have had attendance or behavior issues while enrolled in Head Start.

The research, recently published in the Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, was conducted by the Multnomah County Partnership for Education Research (MCPER). MCPER was developed by the University of Portland School of Education and the not-for-profit educational services organization NWEA to assist the county’s six largest public school districts, including Portland Public Schools, in evaluating the effectiveness of education programs and making informed, data-driven decisions to increase student learning and equity.

"The results of our study on the EKT program show the positive and lasting impact of a low-cost, targeted intervention designed to encourage family engagement and support student achievement-valuable data that district stakeholders can use moving forward," said Dr. Beth Tarasawa, Manager for Education Research Partnerships at NWEA and lead researcher on the study.

The EKT program is a free, three-week summer program designed to increase parental involvement, reduce chronic absenteeism, and enhance the development of early literacy skills-all early indicators of long-term academic success. During the program, incoming kindergarteners work with teachers to practice school routines and gain literacy skills, and parents connect with school staff and learn how to support their children’s learning at home.

"The EKT program helps school staff develop strong, authentic partnerships with families and students before school starts," said Nancy Hauth, Program Manager of Kindergarten and Early Learning at Portland Public Schools. "This early ‘home to school’ connection is powerful and helps all of our students succeed. We’re thrilled that the results of our EKT program validate that we are on the right path with our youngest students."

The study followed a total of 459 students who participated in the EKT program. Results showed that, when compared to non-EKT students, participating students’ attendance rates remained higher over time, a higher proportion met early literacy benchmarks, and a smaller proportion were deemed in need of intensive literacy support. The evaluation will extend to include this summer’s participating students in order to provide ongoing tracking of the efficacy of the EKT program.

"Our district leadership needs to know what’s working in our schools, and we need actionable data to make decisions," said Dr. Elise Christiansen, System Planning and Performance Manager, Evaluation and Research Unit, System Planning and Performance Department at Portland Public Schools. "With MCPER, we determine the initiatives we want to examine, identify the data we need, and apply what we learn from the findings to continually improve how we support student learning. This research enables us to remain accountable to the students, families, and communities that we serve."

Source:  Portland Public Schools

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