Evaluating the Effectiveness of Tennessee's Voluntary Pre-K Program

Observation & Assessment Materials

Observation Materials and Examples

In the part of the study that looks at specific TN-VPK classrooms for a two-year period, called the Representative Sample Study, we sent trained staff to observe the learning environments of the participating TN-VPK classrooms.  Observers scheduled a visit on a day that was convenient for the teacher but also representative of a typical classroom day.  We did our best to avoid visiting a classroom on a day when a special activity was planned, typical school day hours were altered, or any other event was scheduled that would prevent our observers from seeing what usually occurred on a regular day in the classroom.  The observer (or observers; occasionally we needed to send two staff members at the same time to the same classroom) typically stayed in the classroom the entire day, making sure to remain as unobtrusive as possible.  During the visit, the observer used several instruments to record various things about the classroom environment.  Brief descriptions of these instruments are listed below.

Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale – Revised Edition (ECERS-R)

The ECERS-R ((Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2005) is one of the most widely-used measures of global quality in early childcare environments.  It is used both nationally and internationally.  It consists of 43 items that are rated on a 7-point scale, and the items are grouped into 7 subscales.  Like most research studies, this study only uses 6 of the subscales:  Space & Furnishings, Personal Care Routines, Language & Reasoning, Activities, Interactions, and Program Structure.

Early Language & Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO)

The ELLCO (Smith & Dickinson, 2002) is a measure of the general language and literacy environment in an early learning classroom.  It consists of item rated on a 5-point scale that are combined into 5 subscales:  Classroom Structure, Curriculum, Language Environment, Books and Book Reading, and Print and Early Writing.

Narrative Record Form

The Narrative Record Form (Farran & Bilbrey, 2004) is an open-ended format for recording narrative data notes about everything that occurs in the classroom. It consists of the following:

  • Episodes of Time: By tracking the time of events in the classroom, a record of segments of time can be kept.
  • Brief Description of “What’s Happening in the Classroom”: A running account and description of events provides a reference source for the observation.
  • Codes for Type of Activity (Learning Setting) during the episode: A simple code for the structure or type of activity describes categorically the mode of instruction during the episode.
  • Codes for Content of Instruction (Learning Focus) occurring during the episode: A simple code for the content of instruction provides a label of academic content.
  • Codes for Level of Instruction across an episode (in some regions only).
  • Codes for Behavior Management (reminders vs. reinforcers – in some regions only).
  • Codes for Teacher Pleasantness or Unpleasantness (in some regions only).
  • Notes: Comment on center availability, materials in centers, computer usage, etc.

The categorical variables for Type of Activity, Content of Instruction, and Level of Instruction, combined with the Duration of Time of each episode provide critical information that can be easily analyzed.

Assessment Materials and Examples

We use a number of measures in this study that assess children’s school readiness skills, both through direct assessments and teacher ratings.  Depending on the part of the study, children are either assessed one single time or multiple times across the years of their education.  Click here for a brief description of each measure with illustrative item examples where possible.

Measures in Follow-Up Study for the 2016-17 school year

In the VPK Follow Up, each year we complete a phone interview with each participant’s parent, have each participant’s teacher complete a teacher survey on their classroom climate and the student and our data collectors meet individually with each student. They complete a student survey and are administered  three NIH Toolbox tasks on an iPad.

Click here to view the parent survey:Parent Survey-2016-17

Click here to view the teacher survey: Teacher Survey 2016-17

Click here to view the student survey: Student Survey – 2016-17

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The five-year, $6 million study is funded by grant #R305E090009 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science.

The new five-year, $4 million study to follow a portion of the original sample is funded by grant #R01HD079461-01 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's National Institutes of Health.

The Follow-Up neighborhood data is funded by grant #R01HD079461-01W1 from the US Department of Health and Human Service's National Institutes of Health.