Reading and Writing

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 463–494

An evaluation of curriculum, setting, and mentoring on the performance of children enrolled in pre-kindergarten

  • Michael Andrew Assel
  • Susan H. Landry
  • Paul R. Swank
  • Susan Gunnewig
Open Access


An alarming number of American pre-school children lack sufficient language and literacy skills to succeed in kindergarten. The type of curriculum that is available within pre-kindergarten settings can impact children's academic readiness. This work presents results from an evaluation of two language and literacy curricula (i.e., Let's Begin with the Letter People and Doors to Discovery) from a random assignment study that occurred within three settings (i.e., Head Start, Title 1, and universal pre-kindergarten) and included a control group. The design included a mentoring and non- mentoring condition that was balanced across sites in either curriculum condition. A pre and post-test design was utilized in the analyses, with children (n = 603) tested before the intervention and at the end of the year. Multilevel growth curve modeling, where the child outcomes (dependent measures) are modeled as a function of the child's level of performance and rate of growth between pre and post-testing, was used for all analyses. Results indicated that in many key language/literacy areas, the skills of children in classrooms using either one of the target curricula grew at greater rates than children in control classrooms. This was especially true in the Head Start programs. The findings from this study indicate that at-risk children can benefit from a well-specified curriculum. Additionally, findings demonstrate that a well-detailed curriculum appeared to be less important for children from higher income families. The impact of mentoring was less clear and seemed dependent on the type of skill being measured and type of program.


Curriculum evaluation Early literacy Head Start Pre-kindergarten 


  1. Abrams & Company (2000). Let’s read with the letter people. Abrams & Company, Waterbury, CTGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnold D. H., Lonigan C. J., Whitehurst G. J., Epstein J. N. (1994). Accelerating language development through picture book reading: Replication and extension to a videotape training format. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86: 235–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett W. S. (1995). Long term effects of early childhood programs on cognitive and school outcomes. In R. E. Behrman (Ed.), The future of children: Long-term outcomes of early childhood programs Vol. 5. The Center for the Future of Children, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Los Altos, CA, pp. 25–50Google Scholar
  4. Biemiller, A. (2003). Using stories to promote vocabulary. Paper presented at the International Reading Association Symposium, Orlando, FL, May, 2003Google Scholar
  5. Bowman, B. T., Donovan, M. S., & Burns, M. S. (Eds.) (2001). Eager to learn: Educating our preschoolers. Washington, DC: National Academy PressGoogle Scholar
  6. Box J. A., Aldridge J. (1993). Shared reading experiences and Head Start children’s concept about print and story structure. Perceptual & Motor Skills 77: 929–930Google Scholar
  7. Bradley R., Caldwell B., Rock S. (1988). Home environment and school performance: A ten year follow-up and examination of three models of environmental action. Child Development 59: 852–867CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.) (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Committee on the Developments in the Science of Learning, National Research Council. Washington, DC: Academic PressGoogle Scholar
  9. Burchinal M. R., Peisner-Feingberg E., Bryant D. M., Clifford R. (2000). Children’s social and cognitive development and child-care quality: Testing for differential associations related to poverty, gender, or ethnicity. Applied Developmental Science 4: 149–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd Edn). Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJGoogle Scholar
  11. CTB/McGraw-Hill (1990). Developing skills checklist. CTB/McGraw-Hill, Monterey, CAGoogle Scholar
  12. Dickinson D. K., Smith M. W. (1994). Long-term effects of preschool teachers’ book readings on low-income children’s vocabulary and story comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly 29: 1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education (1998). Ideas that work science professional development. The Ohio State University, Columbus, OHGoogle Scholar
  14. Fleiss J. L. (1986). The design and analysis of clinical experiments Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Frede E. (1995). The role of program quality in producing early childhood program benefits. In R. E. Behrman (Ed.), The future of children: Long-term outcomes of early childhood programs Vol. 5 The Center for the Future of Children, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Los Altos, CA pp. 115–132Google Scholar
  16. Frick T., Semmel M. (1978). Observer agreement and reliabilities of classroom observational methods. Review of Educational Research 48: 157–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hart B., Risley T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children Paul H. Brookes, Baltimore, MDGoogle Scholar
  18. Helburn, S. W. (Ed.) (1995). Cost, quality, and child outcomes in child care centers (Tech. Rep.). Denver, CO: University of Colorado at Denver, Department of Economics, Center for Research in Economic and Social PolicyGoogle Scholar
  19. Howes C., Phillips D., Whitebook M. (1992). Thresholds of quality: Implications for the social development of children in center based child care. Child Development 63: 449–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. International Reading Association, & National Association for the Education of Young Children (1998). Learning to read and write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children. Young Children, July, 30–46Google Scholar
  21. Juel C., Griffith P. L., Gough P. B. (1986). Acquisition of literacy: A longitudinal study of children in first and second grade. Journal of Educational Psychology 78: 243–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kontos S. C., Howes C., Galinsky E. (1997). Does training make a difference to quality in family child care? Early Childhood Research Quarterly 12: 351–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Landry, S. H., Crawford, A., Gunnewig, S., & Swank, P. R. (2002). Teacher behavior rating scale. Center for Improving the Readiness of Children for Learning and Education, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, unpublished research instrumentGoogle Scholar
  24. Landry S. H., Smith K. E., Swank P. R., Assel M. A., Vellet S. (2001). Does early responsive parenting have a special importance for children’s development or is consistency across early childhood necessary? Developmental Psychology 37: 387–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee E., Brooks-Gunn J., Schnur E. (1988). Does Head Start work? A 1-year follow-up comparison of disadvantaged children attending Head Start, no preschool, and other preschool programs. Developmental Psychology 24: 210–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Legislative Office of Education (1998). Head Start’s impact on school readiness in Ohio: A case study for kindergarten students. Report for the Ohio State Legislative Office of Education Oversight, Columbus, ERIC: ED 421 2237Google Scholar
  27. Lonigan C. J., Burgess S. R., Anthony J. L., Barker T. A. (1998). Development of phonological sensitivity in two- to five-year-old children. Journal of Educational Psychology 90: 294–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. MacLean M., Bryant P., Bradley L. (1987). Rhymes, nursery rhymes, and reading in early childhood. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 33: 255–282Google Scholar
  29. McGrew K. S., Woodcock R. W. (2001). Technical manual. Woodcock–Johnson III. Riverside Publishing, Itasca, ILGoogle Scholar
  30. Mitchell F. (1979). Interobserver agreement, reliability, and generalizability of data collected in observational studies. Psychological Bulletin 86: 366–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Molfese D. L. (1989). Electrophysiological correlates of word meanings in 4-month-old human infants. Developmental Neuropsychology 5: 79–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Neville H. J., Bavelier D., Corina D., Rauschecker J., Karni A., Lalwani A., et al. (1998). Cerebral organization for language in deaf and hearing subjects: Biological constraints and effects of experience Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 95: 922–929CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reynolds A. J. (1995). One year of preschool intervention or two: Does it matter? Early Childhood Research 10: 1–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. SAS Institute Inc., SAS OnlineDoc®, Version 8 (2001). Cary, NC: SAS Institute IncGoogle Scholar
  35. Senechal M. (1997). The differential effect of storybook reading on preschoolers’ acquisition of expressive and receptive vocabulary. Child Language 24: 123–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Smith, S., Blank, S., & Collins, R. (1992). Pathways to self-sufficiency for two generations: Designing welfare-to-work programs that benefit children and strengthen families. New York Foundation for Child DevelopmentGoogle Scholar
  37. Snijders T., Bosker R. (1999). Multilevel analysis: An introduction to basic and advanced multilevel modeling Sage, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  38. Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.) (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy PressGoogle Scholar
  39. Spodek B. (1996). The professional development of early childhood teachers. Early Child Development and Care 115: 115–124Google Scholar
  40. Whitehurst G. C., Lonigan C. J. (1998). Child development and emergent literacy. Child Development 68: 848–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Whitehurst G. J., Epstein J. N., Angell A. L., Payne A. C., Crone D. A., Fischel J. E. (1994). Outcomes of an emergent literacy intervention in Head Start. Journal of Educational Psychology 86: 542–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Williams K. T. (1997). Expressive vocabulary test American Guidance Service, Circle Pines, MNGoogle Scholar
  43. Woodcock R. W., McGrew K. S., Mather N. (2001). Woodcock–Johnson III tests of achievement Riverside Publishing, Itasca, ILGoogle Scholar
  44. Wright Group, McGraw Hill (2001). Doors to discovery: A new pre-kindergarten program Wright Group/McGraw-Hill, Bothell, WAGoogle Scholar
  45. Zevenbergen A. A., Whitehurst G. J., Payne A. C., Crone D. A., Hiscott M. D., Nania O. C., et al. (1997). Outcomes of an emergent literacy intervention in Head Start homes and classrooms. National Head Start Association Research Quarterly 1: 137–147Google Scholar
  46. Zill, N., & West, J. (2001). Entering kindergarten: A portrait of American children when they begin school. U.S. Department of Education, OERI, NCES 2001-035Google Scholar
  47. Zimmerman I. L., Steiner V. G., Pond R. E. (2002). Preschool language scale-fourth edition. The Psychological Corporation, San Antonio, TXGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Andrew Assel
    • 1
  • Susan H. Landry
    • 1
  • Paul R. Swank
    • 1
  • Susan Gunnewig
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Texas Health Science Center-HoustonHoustonUSA

Personalised recommendations