Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance

This alliance seeks to examine factors related to improving the quality and effectiveness of the state's prekindergarten (preK) programs and their impact on children's school readiness and grade 3 success. Alliance work includes developing a research agenda, conducting research, and supporting the use of data and evidence to improve practice, policy, and student outcomes.

Goals

  • Inform the state-level creation and maintenance of a comprehensive preK–12 data system
  • Extend the evidence base on the impact of the state’s preK initiatives on student outcomes
  • Refine and develop innovations to support the alignment and measurement of standards and benchmarks for early childhood programs

Research Focus

The alliance has identified the following topics as priorities:

  • Program quality
  • Program participation and student success
  • Transition to kindergarten
  • Data availability and use

Alliance Flyer

screen cap of alliance flyer

Work Updates

2017

Spring

During this quarter, the Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions and to plan and hold events. On March 21, the alliance sponsored a bridge event webinar titled "Leading the Way: How States Are Addressing Early Learning Under ESSA." Cohosted by the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), this webinar provided resources and strategies for integrating early learning into state plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including examples from state leaders in Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, and Washington.

On April 27, the alliance convened in Little Rock, Arkansas, for a quarterly meeting. The meeting included two workshops to build alliance members' capacity to access and use Arkansas and national resources to improve outcomes for preK students.

In the first workshop, REL Southwest staff demonstrated how to use GIS maps to visualize data and explore preK eligibility and availability in Arkansas. Members gained hands-on practice in specifying the timeframe and data elements (such as poverty, education attainment) to include in their maps. The GIS maps were developed as part of the alliance's PreK Participation and GIS Mapping project.

In the second workshop, alliance members learned how to use a custom resource tool to identify and access available data and research related to topics in the alliance's research agenda. Alliance members then discussed possible uses for the tool in their current work.

Members also received an update on the Alignment of the Arkansas Teacher Excellence and Support System (TESS) to Other Measures of PreK Teacher Performance technical assistance project. Staff are in the process of developing a matrix to compare and contrast TESS with two other widely used preschool evaluation instruments: the Early Childhood Environment Rating System (ECERS-R) and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS™).

Finally, members discussed networking opportunities and whether they will continue some or all aspects of the alliance's work after the current REL Southwest contract ends in November 2017.

Winter

During this quarter, the Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions and to plan and hold events.

REL Southwest staff completed the GIS maps for the Arkansas PreK Participation Study and GIS Mapping analytic technical support project. The results of this work were shared with alliance members at a face-to-face meeting in Little Rock on April 27, 2017.

The alliance also began planning for a bridge event webinar, "Leading the Way: How States Are Addressing Early Learning Under ESSA," which was held March 21, 2017. Cohosted by the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), this webinar provided resources and strategies for integrating early learning into state plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including examples from state leaders in Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, and Washington. The Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance liaison and one alliance member contributed to the planning and presentation of this bridge event.

REL Southwest also received approval for a new technical assistance project, Alignment of the Arkansas Teacher Excellence and Support System (TESS) to Other Measures of PreK Teacher Performance. The project team will compare and contrast TESS with two widely used preschool evaluation instruments: the Early Childhood Environment Rating System (ECERS-R) and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS™). The findings, to be shared at an alliance workshop, will be presented in the form of a crosswalk showing the alignment between the three instruments' domains, dimensions, and criteria. In addition, the workshop will facilitate discussions with alliance members about how best to use the crosswalk in their preK programs and to inform statewide discussions about the use of TESS and other performance evaluation instruments for preK teachers. The project team has begun developing the alignment crosswalk and planning the workshop.

2016

Fall

During this quarter, the Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance liaison and members communicated regularly to address questions and concerns and to plan and hold events.

On September 14, REL Southwest and the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas co-hosted a bridge event conference, titled "Unlocking Key Challenges Facing Arkansas' Schools," in Little Rock, Arkansas. Conference sessions focused on evidence-based practices related to high-quality prekindergarten programs, rural education, and instruction for diverse learners, with an emphasis on Arkansas.

In addition, staff continued revising the data summary and GIS maps for the Arkansas PreK Participation Study and GIS Mapping analytic technical support project.

Summer

During this quarter, REL Southwest and the alliance hosted the bridge event webinar "Preschool to Kindergarten: Successfully Navigating the Transition" on August 2. This research-to-practice webinar examined current research on supporting children's transition to kindergarten as well as examples of promising transition practices that districts are using around the nation.

The alliance also began planning for a September 14 bridge event conference, "Unlocking Key Challenges Facing Arkansas' Schools," in collaboration with the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas. The conference, held in Little Rock, focused on evidence-based practices related to high-quality prekindergarten programs, rural education, and instruction for diverse learners, with a focus on Arkansas.

In addition, work continued on the Arkansas PreK Participation Study and GIS Mapping analytic technical support project.

Spring

During this quarter, the Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance liaison communicated regularly with alliance members to address their questions and concerns. In addition, REL Southwest staff and alliance members began planning two upcoming bridge events: the Preschool to Kindergarten: Successfully Navigating the Transition webinar, which was held on August 2, and the Unlocking Key Challenges Facing Arkansas Schools workshop, scheduled for September 14 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Work also continued on the Arkansas PreK Participation Study and GIS Mapping analytic technical support project.

Winter

During this quarter, data analysis continued on the PreK Participation Study and GIS Mapping project. This analytic technical support project will help alliance members describe and map state prekindergarten (preK) participation patterns and trends, including the estimated number of children eligible for preK, where those students live, and how many are enrolled in Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) programs.

A bridge event titled "Teaching Math to Young Children Practice Guide: Hands-On Workshop" was held on November 16, 2015, in Austin, Texas. Dr. Sharon Carver, director of the Carnegie Mellon Children's School, was the presenter. This all-day workshop explored the evidence-based recommendations in the Teaching Math to Young Children practice guide, produced by the What Works Clearinghouse. The free event drew 49 attendees.

The alliance liaison is preparing to conduct site visits to alliance members in Spring 2016.

2015

Fall

In August 2015, the alliance liaison conducted a site visit to Tucker Elementary in Rogers Public Schools. The liaison met with an alliance member who is an early childhood education program director at the school and observed preK classrooms. The purpose of the meeting was to increase REL Southwest's understanding of the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scores (ECERS) and its implementation in preK classrooms.

In September, staff presented an overview of the REL Southwest and Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance to 16 public school superintendents who belong to the Crowley's Ridge Educational Service Cooperative. The purpose of the presentation was outreach and recruitment. REL Southwest staff explained the benefits of alliance membership and invited the superintendents to join the Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance.

Also during this quarter, work continued on the Arkansas PreK Participation Study and GIS Mapping project. This project will describe and map state preK participation patterns and trends, including the estimated number of children eligible for preK, where those students live, and how many are enrolled in Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) programs.

In addition, planning continued on the alliance's bridge event, "Teaching Math to Young Children Practice Guide: Hands-On Workshop," which was held on November 16, 2015, in Austin, Texas. This all-day workshop explored the evidence-based recommendations in the Teaching Math to Young Children practice guide, produced by the What Works Clearinghouse.

Summer

During this quarter, REL Southwest researchers continued to work on the Arkansas PreK Participation Study and GIS Mapping project. This project will describe and map state preK participation patterns and trends, including the estimated number of eligible preK students in Arkansas, where these students are located, and how many of the students are enrolled in Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) programs.

REL Southwest staff presented the workshop “Maintaining Quality Control in Data Requests and Responses” to staff at the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Participants learned techniques for receiving and responding to data requests and for working collaboratively to identify areas for improvement within their own data request and fulfillment system. The workshop was presented twice, in April and August, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Spring

During this period, REL Southwest researchers began work on the Arkansas PreK Participation Study and GIS Mapping project. This project will describe and map state preK participation patterns and trends, including the estimated number of eligible preK students in Arkansas, where the students are located, and how many of them are enrolled in Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) programs.

A bridge event webinar titled “Teaching Math to Young Children Practice Guide: Introduction” was presented on April 15. Participants were introduced to the IES practice guide Teaching Math to Young Children. Dr. Sharon Carver, Ph.D., director of the Children's School at Carnegie Mellon University, provided an overview of the practice guide, with a focus on teaching children to see math in their everyday surroundings.

In April, a workshop titled "Using Arkansas Research Center (ARC) Data" was presented to staff at the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Participants learned techniques for receiving and responding to data requests and worked collaboratively to identify areas for improvement within their own data request and fulfillment system.

During this quarter, the alliance liaison also conducted site visits with alliance members to observe and discuss the use of Conscious Discipline(R), a social-emotional classroom management system for prekindergarten. The alliance liaison interviewed two preK teachers that use Conscious Discipline and will include their experiences in a newsletter to share with alliance members.

Winter

During this period, REL Southwest staff planned and developed content for a whole-group alliance webinar meeting, which was held in January 2015. This meeting gave alliance members an opportunity to discuss 2015 workshop ideas as well as plans for accomplishing priority items on the research agenda. Members provided feedback on a proposed study on Arkansas preK participation and GIS mapping. The alliance liaison also shared plans for events that will potentially be held later in the year: Teaching Math to Young Children bridge events (a webinar and an in-person meeting) and an Overview of Conscious Discipline workshop. Members expressed interest in both event topics. Looking ahead, the alliance liaison plans to schedule spring site visits with members.

2014

October

The alliance liaison toured prekindergarten programs at Paragould Public Schools, Cross County School District, and North Little Rock School District. These visits provided a valuable opportunity to talk with alliance members one-on-one about the alliance research agenda and other topics of interest to practitioners.

REL Southwest staff is planning and developing content for a whole-group alliance webinar meeting in January 2015. This meeting will give alliance members an opportunity to discuss 2015 workshop ideas and plans for accomplishing priority items on the research agenda.

August–September

On August 12, alliance members participated in an early childhood bridge event titled Engaging Families in the Assessment Process and Use of Data: An Early Childhood Example. Featured speakers from Educare of Kansas City and the Juniper Gardens Children's Project shared their experiences using data to work with families and inform curriculum planning for children in early childhood programs. This webinar was a cross-REL bridge event with REL Northeast and Islands.

In early September, the alliance liaison toured prekindergarten programs at Booneville School District, Rogers Public Schools, and Russellville School District. These visits provided a valuable opportunity to talk with alliance members one-on-one about the alliance research agenda and other topics of interest to practitioners.

On September 11, alliance members attended a workshop in Little Rock, Arkansas, titled Using Arkansas Research Center (ARC) Data. REL Southwest researchers demonstrated how the information in the data inventory could be used to inform decisionmaking and improve practice in preK settings.

July

The Arkansas Data Inventory was approved by the Institute of Education Sciences in July. In addition, staff continued planning a workshop titled Using Arkansas Research Center (ARC) Data. The focus of the workshop will be on applying the information in the Arkansas Data Inventory to inform decisionmaking and improve practice in preK settings. This workshop will take place on September 11.

June

The alliance met on June 24. The purpose of the meeting was to review updates on current projects, discuss alliance planning teams, identify current early childhood events and conferences, and determine possible new alliance members.

Alliance members were invited to participate in an upcoming early childhood bridge event titled Engaging Families in the Assessment Process and Use of Data: An Early Childhood Example. This webinar will take place on August 12. Featured speakers from Educare of Kansas City and the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project will share their experiences using data to work with families and inform curriculum planning for children in early childhood programs. This webinar is a cross-REL bridge event between the REL Southwest and the REL Northeast & Islands.

In addition, researchers continued to develop the Arkansas Data Inventory for the alliance, which will be submitted for approval in July. Staff also continued planning a workshop titled Using Arkansas Research Center (ARC) Data, which will focus on applying the information in the data inventory to inform decisionmaking and improve practice in preK settings. This workshop will take place in September.

May

The alliance liaison and other REL Southwest staff worked to plan the next alliance meeting, scheduled for June 24, 2014. Staff continues to work on planning a workshop titled Using Arkansas Research Center (ARC) Data. The focus of the workshop will be on applying the information in the Arkansas Data Inventory to inform decisionmaking and improve practice in preK settings. This workshop will take place in August.

The alliance liaison shared the NIEER 2013 State Preschool Yearbook with alliance members. The 2013 Yearbook includes a summary for each state and provides a description of national trends for enrollment in, quality of, and spending on state-funded preschool. Additionally, each state’s policies on access, quality standards, and resources are profiled.

April

On April 17, several alliance members participated in the bridge event webinar Building Early Childhood Data Systems, a collaborative effort between REL Southwest and REL Midwest. The director of the Child Care and Early Childhood Education Division at the Arkansas Department of Human Services, who is also an alliance member, served as a presenter for the webinar. The director discussed the development of the Arkansas early childhood data system from the perspective of a state that did not receive a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. The archived webinar is available online: http://www.relmidwest.org/events/building-early-childhood-data-systems.

Work continued on the alliance's Arkansas Data Inventory, which was completed in April and is now being revised to address feedback from the Institute of Education Sciences. An update on the Data Inventory project will be provided at the next alliance meeting, scheduled for June. With the completion of the inventory, staff began work on an alliance workshop titled Using Arkansas Research Center (ARC) Data. The focus of the workshop will be on applying the information in the Data Inventory to inform decisionmaking and improve practice in preK settings.

March

The alliance did not meet in March, and the next meeting is scheduled for May. Work on the alliance's Arkansas Data Inventory continued in March. REL Southwest researchers began reaching out to alliance members to gather the most accurate and current data possible to include in the inventory. An update on the Data Inventory project will be provided at the next alliance meeting in May.

Additionally, the Arkansas results of the 2013 Early Childhood Data Systems Survey were shared with alliance members. View the full report. This report indicates how well and to what extent early childhood data in each state are being shared across systems, such as public school accountability systems, social services, special education services, and medical care services.

February

The Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance met via webinar on February 24. The primary goals of the meeting were to provide alliance members with a status report on the research agenda, to involve members in planning year 2 analytic technical support activities, to receive updates from the Arkansas legislative session and the Arkansas Department of Human Services, and to share upcoming alliance events. An overview of the Arkansas Data Inventory project, which is underway, was provided as well. This inventory will provide information on existing relevant data in the state, including information on data accessibility, utility, and quality.

January

The Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance did not meet in January. Initial work on the Arkansas Data Inventory project got underway. The alliance will have a virtual meeting in February. Alliance members will receive updates on the research agenda and current legislative actions which impact early childhood education.