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Research Findings: Head Start teachers completed brief rating scales measuring the social-emotional competence and approaches to learning of preschool children (total N = 164; 14% Hispanic American, 30% African American, 56% Caucasian; 56% girls). Head Start lead and assistant teacher ratings on both scales demonstrated strong internal consistency and moderate interrater reliability. When examined longitudinally, preschool teacher-rated approaches to learning made unique contributions to the prediction of kindergarten and 1st-grade academic outcomes, need for supplemental services, and grade retention, even after we accounted for preschool academic skills. In contrast, preschool teacher-rated social-emotional competence made unique contributions to the prediction of reduced behavior problems and peer difficulties in kindergarten and 1st grade. Practice or Policy: The findings demonstrate that preschool teachers are able to provide distinct and reliable ratings of child social-emotional competence and approaches to learning using brief rating scales, with validity for predicting elementary school adjustment.
Objective: This article examines the impact of a universal social-emotional learning program, the Fast Track PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) curriculum and teacher consultation, embedded within the Fast Track selective prevention model. Method: The longitudinal analysis involved 2,937 children of multiple ethnicities who remained in the same intervention or control schools for Grades 1, 2, and 3. The study involved a clustered randomized controlled trial involving sets of schools randomized within 3 U.S. locations. Measures assessed teacher and peer reports of aggression, hyperactive-disruptive behaviors, and social competence. Beginning in first grade and through 3 successive years, teachers received training and support and implemented the PATHS curriculum in their classrooms. Results: The study examined the main effects of intervention as well as how outcomes were affected by characteristics of the child (baseline level of problem behavior, gender) and by the school environment (student poverty). Modest positive effects of sustained program exposure included reduced aggression and increased prosocial behavior (according to both teacher and peer report) and improved academic engagement (according to teacher report). Peer report effects were moderated by gender, with significant effects only for boys. Most intervention effects were moderated by school environment, with effects stronger in less disadvantaged schools, and effects on aggression were larger in students who showed higher baseline levels of aggression. Conclusions: A major implication of the findings is that well-implemented multiyear social-emotional learning programs can have significant and meaningful preventive effects on the population-level rates of aggression, social competence, and academic engagement in the elementary school years. (Contains 3 tables, 4 figures, and 3 footnotes.)
Research Findings: This study examined processes of change associated with the positive preschool and kindergarten outcomes of children who received the Head Start REDI (REsearch-based, Developmentally Informed) intervention compared to usual practice Head Start. Using data from a large-scale randomized controlled trial ("N" = 356 children, 42% African American or Latino, all from low-income families), this study tests the logic model that improving preschool social-emotional skills (e.g., emotion understanding, social problem solving, and positive social behavior) as well as language/emergent literacy skills will promote cross-domain academic and behavioral adjustment after children transition into kindergarten. Validating this logic model, the present study finds that intervention effects on 3 important kindergarten outcomes (e.g., reading achievement, learning engagement, and positive social behavior) were mediated by preschool gains in the proximal social-emotional and language/emergent literacy skills targeted by the REDI intervention. It is important to note that preschool gains in social-emotional skills made unique contributions to kindergarten outcomes in reading achievement and learning engagement, even after we accounted for concurrent preschool gains in vocabulary and emergent literacy skills. Practice or Policy: These findings highlight the importance of fostering at-risk children's social-emotional skills during preschool as a means of promoting school readiness.