Design, Sites, and Data Sources
During the 2014-2015 school year, the High 5s research team conducted a successful pilot phase at three public schools that received Building Blocks as part of the Making Pre-K Count (MPC) intervention. The pilot sites were selected to ensure representation of the variability in MPC sites, taking into account a number of factors, including borough, ethnicity/race, schedules, and capacity to implement the High 5s model. Facilitators were hired, trained, and supervised by Bank Street College. The pilot study was designed to determine the logistical feasibility of a full-scale High 5s intervention in New York City, and the research team focused on student attendance and engagement, curricular implementation, instructional quality, and reception by teachers, school administrators, and families, among other measures, to determine whether the intervention could be successfully implemented at scale. The pilot year gave us confidence that High 5s can be implemented with fidelity and quality in MPC schools, that children’s attendance can be high, and that children can make sufficient progress in their math skills. Lessons from these pilot experiences will strengthen the implementation of the High 5s model during the full-scale phase of the program in 2015-2016.
While the pilot evaluation of High 5s was focused on logistical feasibility and program implementation, the full-scale evaluation design must achieve two goals: (1) determine whether the High 5s clubs sustain or increase the effects of implementing the MPC Building Blocks curriculum in the preschool year, and (2) preserve our ability to determine the effects of the MPC intervention without any kindergarten enhancement. All of our design considerations begin with the sample of schools and centers that have already been randomly assigned to treatment or control conditions as part of MPC and build upon the comprehensive data collection strategy that is already in place.
The full implementation phase of High 5s will be offered to the children in 24 public school sites that were randomly assigned to receive the Building Blocks intervention during the 2014-2015 school year as part of MPC. There are two points of randomization, then, in the overall MPC and High 5s design: in the first, which has already occurred as part of the MPC evaluation, public preschools were randomized to either a business-as-usual group or a group receiving the Building Blocks intervention. In the second randomization, children in the public school Building Blocks group who return to those schools for kindergarten will be individually randomized to either High 5s or to a comparison group that receives regular kindergarten programming without High 5s. This will result in three research groups: (1) a group that receives no math enhancement in either preschool or kindergarten, (2) a group of children who receive only the preschool math intervention, and (3) a group of children who receive both the preschool and kindergarten interventions. The design will allow us to test both the impact of the MPC preschool intervention by itself and the impact of the preschool intervention as enhanced by the High 5s kindergarten add-on.