Quality Interventions for Early Care and Education

This project was a randomized control trial of a particular model of on-site consultation to early childhood education teachers and family child care providers; the purpose of the consultation was to improve quality. The study was funded in 2004 by the Child Care Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and led by researchers at the University of North Carolina, and colleagues in four other states. The evaluation was called QUINCE (Quality Interventions for Early Care and Education). The study tested the Partnerships for Inclusion (PFI) model of assessment-based, individualized, on-site consultation (Palsha & Wesley, 1998; Wesley, 1994). PFI consists of two main components, both developed at the FPG Child Development Institute—the assessment tools used to index quality (Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised, (ITERS), 2003, Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised, (ECERS), 1998, and Family Day Care Rating Scale (FDCRS), 1989, measures developed by Harms, Clifford, & Cryer) and the theory-based, collaborative, problem-solving model of consultation developed by Pat Wesley. The model builds on the literature that suggests greater change is possible when individuals are involved in assessing their own needs, receive individualized support over an extended period of time, and have opportunities to apply new knowledge and skills in their own work setting.

Quality consultants from 24 community agencies in five states (California, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Carolina) participated in the study. Random assignment was used at two levels: 101 consultants were randomly assigned to PFI or control groups, and 108 child care classrooms and 263 family child care (FCC) homes were randomly assigned to PFI or control consultants. Teachers and FCC providers were assessed using questionnaires and observations before and after the PFI or control intervention and 6 months later. In the year after the intervention, 710 children in these classrooms and FCC homes were assessed at two time points with measures of cognitive, language and socio-emotional development. The objectives of the research were to test the efficacy of the PFI model of on-site consultation compared to the typical quality enhancement programs delivered by the 24 participating agencies, to investigate the conditions under which PFI might work, and to assess whether children in FCC homes and classrooms served by a PFI-trained consultants had better outcomes than those in classes that received the typical consultation.

The main conclusion of the study was that on-site consultation can significantly improve child care quality. The specific intervention studied, the Partnerships for Inclusion model, was more effective with FCC homes than the typical consultation being offered in many communities. Among child care classrooms, however, quality improved whether the teacher received PFI or one of the control group interventions. Among FCC providers, quality gains maintained 6 months after intervention and among child care teachers, quality continued to improve. After accounting for child characteristics, main effects were found for quality, that is, children in higher quality classrooms or FCC homes scored higher on the language, school readiness mea­sures and social competence measures, and lower on conduct problems and anxiety/depression. There were no main effects of treatment (PFI), how­ever, analyses indicate that children in PFI classrooms showed significantly greater improvement over time on the language measure than children in control classrooms with a moderate effect size (.44).

The consultation approach implemented by many agencies is, at best, not well specified, and at worst, haphazard. Following a standard, theory-based approach is important; adequate training and supervision cannot be underestimated. Fidelity of implementing the PFI on-site consultation intervention was lower than the research team desired and we believe that greater fidelity may have led to greater effect sizes.

FPG Project Staff:
Donna M. Bryant, Principal Investigator
Margaret R. Burchinal, Investigator
Funding Agency: Child Care Bureau
Funding Period: 09/30/2003 - 09/29/2008
Award Amount: $7,415,513