The proposed evaluation project is for the Capellaville Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program. ECFE aims to provide high-quality education to parents whose children are from 0 to 5 years of age. The program offers classes for children and parents, as well as combined classes where parents and children can participate together. ECFE also provides culturally specific classes in several different languages for families that speak a language other than English.
Other services offered by the ECFE program include home visits, teen parents’ groups, supervised visitation, seminars, speaker events, and more. ECFE is considered useful to single parents and low-income families as the program receives the greater part of its funding from the state government. Social workers may refer families to ECFE if they consider the parents to need support and education. The project aims to propose a design for the evaluation of ECFE classes and programs.
An effective model for the evaluation would help the staff and stakeholders to understand the strengths and weaknesses of ECFE activities and services, as well as to identify specific areas for development and to devise plans to improve the quality of service. The entire community would benefit from a thorough evaluation of ECFE as it will promote better quality and development of services.
Furthermore, if the results of the evaluation are excellent, the ECFE program administrators may share them with the state government to prove its effectiveness and to solidify the program’s financing. Building on a thorough review of existing research regarding education evaluation, the project will propose a program theory for the evaluation. This will be supported by evaluation research questions and a description of the standards and criteria to be used, as well as a detailed research design and timeline. Overall, the project will provide comprehensive information about the proposed evaluation, outlining the key steps and activities.
The present evaluation proposal contains a detailed plan for the evaluation of the Capellaville Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program, which works with young children and their families to provide information and education regarding child development. The evaluation project is focused on the ability of the program to ensure a smooth transition between home and school to minimize children’s stress, which is one of the essential goals of the program.
The proposal aims to provide a useful overview of the evaluation project, specifically focusing on its theoretical foundations, detailed research design, and rationale, as well as the timeline and anticipated costs of carrying out the evaluation. The results of the evaluation should help to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the ECFE project, as well as outlining a direction for further development of the program.
The Aspect of the Program
As the program is specifically designed to meet the needs of children from birth to five years old, preparing both children and parents for the transition to primary school is an important concern for educators. Giallo, Treyvaud, Matthews, and Kienhuis (2010) stated that “starting primary school is a significant milestone for all children and their families” (p. 1). The primary school represents a new physical and social environment, where children have to learn not only school subjects but also ways of interacting with peers and teachers (Giallo et al., 2010). Moreover, one of the most significant aspects of starting primary school is the change in certain family routines, which can affect both children and parents (Giallo et al., 2010).
If the child is not prepared for the transition to primary school, he or she may develop adjustment difficulties that can be manifested in worries, fears, crying, temper tantrums, and negative attitudes toward school (Giallo et al., 2010). It is an essential duty of educators to help both children and parents with the transition process, as adjustment difficulties may lead to stress and mental health issues, in addition to impairing learning outcomes (Giallo et al., 2010).
Parental training programs are widely considered to be an effective way of reducing undesirable parenting practices and improving parent-child relationships, thus making the transition to primary school easier and reducing the adjustment period (Li, Chan, Mak, & Lam, 2013). According to research, both parents and teachers agree that “a stronger connection amongst kindergartens, primary schools and parents would facilitate a smoother transition to primary school” (Chan, 2012).
The choice of the focus of the evaluation was also based on the needs and concerns expressed by the stakeholders during the interview process. For instance, the Parenting Educator indicated that there is a need to evaluate children’s preparedness for school and the parents’ involvement in the transition process. Parents also stated that preparing for the transition is important to children, while at the same time mentioning their expectations of the transition process and their child’s school success. Overall, both the scholarly research and the stakeholders’ interviews outline the psychological transition to school as one of the primary concerns for the evaluation of the ECFE program, which justifies the choice of focus.
The choice of approaches used in the evaluation was primarily based on previous research in evaluating education programs. The Context, Inputs, Process, and Products (CIPP) evaluation model was chosen as a primary tool for evaluating all aspects of the education program, as described by Fry and Hammer (2012), who stated, “By alternately focusing on program Context, Inputs, Process, and Products (CIPP), the CIPP model addresses all phases of an education program: planning, implementation, and a summative or final retrospective assessment if desired” (p. 296). Semi-structured interviews and formative evaluations are considered useful in gathering information for the CIPP analysis (Frye & Hemmer, 2012).
Alternatively, Rossi’s Five-Domain Evaluation Model provides a complementary view of an education program by focusing on needs, theory, implementation, impact, and efficiency (Johnson & Dick, 2012). One of the advantages of this model is its flexibility, as it can be adapted to any educational context without a decrease in the effectiveness of the evaluation (Johnson & Dick, 2012). While both evaluation models are considered efficient and applicable to the chosen context, to ensure a comprehensive evaluation, it is also necessary to address racial and social issues that may impact the learning process and its outcomes.
According to Ames (2012), factors such as language, culture, and identity have a crucial effect on a child’s transition to primary school. Social inequalities that children may face in primary school and preschool education programs influence children’s and parents’ attitudes, increase stress, and affect learning outcomes (Ames, 2012), which is why it is necessary to address these factors in the evaluation.
ECFE does not provide a separate comprehensive program to prepare children for their transition to primary school. Instead, the ECFE Core Curriculum aims to address the aspects of parent and child development that are crucial to ensuring a smooth transition from home to the primary school, such as the parent, early childhood, and family development, as well as parent-child relationships, culture, and community (ECFE, 2011). The logic model for the transition aspect of the program is presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Fill in Descriptive Table Title and Delete Highlighting.
|Research-based lesson plans||Classes||Better child-parent relationship||Improved understanding of parenting practices|
|Staff||Workshops||Lack of undesired parenting practices||Acceptance of parent role|
|Materials and equipment||Guidance||Lower stress of children and parents in transition||Better awareness of child development stages|
|Money and time||Use of support networks||Improved trust||Knowledge of child’s needs|
|Opportunities for community involvement||Age-appropriate development of skills||Enhanced relationship skills|
|Increased community involvement||Development of language, social, motor, and creative skills|
|Knowledge of parenting resources|
The casual hypothesis for school readiness outcomes is that the ECFE program has a positive effect on family development. The intervention hypothesis is that classes, workshops, guidance, and other activities provided by ECFE improve parenting practices and enhance the parent-child relationship while at the same time ensuring age-appropriate skills development in children. The action hypothesis is that the activities of the ECFE Core Curriculum improve the process of transition to primary school for parents and children, making it quicker and easier, along with creating more opportunities for positive learning outcomes.
Evaluation of Research Questions
The following questions form the basis of the evaluation process:
- Are the activities of the program appropriate to the chosen context?
- Is there sufficient theoretical background behind the education program and lesson plans?
- Are all needs of parents and preschool children addressed?
- Do the children satisfy age-appropriate development criteria?
- Do the parents have sufficient knowledge of good parenting practices and their implementation?
- What percentage of children satisfy the psychological, social, and development criteria for primary school?
- What percentage of children express fears or concerns related to starting school?
- What percentage of parents believe that their child would not have difficulties with adjustment to school?
- What has primary gaps in parent and child development been identified by educators?
- Do parents consider the program to be effective in ensuring a smooth transition to primary school?
Two types of standards will be used in program evaluation. First, it is necessary to apply program standards to the educational evaluation to address factors such as health and safety standards, accommodations made for parents and children, use of technology, and more. The School Readiness Program Health and Safety Standards Handbook (OEL, 2016) is a useful publication that outlines the basic standards applied to early learning providers in the United States. The guidelines provide standards related to supervision, activity, physical environment, equipment, health and sanitation, fire safety, and more.
Overall, the OEL (2016) standards are useful in evaluating the environment in which the ECFE classes are held. The standards are broken down into small units, making it easier to perform the evaluation and to identify specific gaps to be addressed. Next, it is also essential to evaluate the children’s school readiness. Toward this end, it would be useful to apply the Early Learning and Development Standards of the state’s Department of Education.
Ohio’s 2012 Early Learning and Development Standards in All Essential Domains of School Readiness (Birth–Age 5) evaluate children’s skills and knowledge in the most crucial education domains, making them a useful tool for the assessment (ODE, 2012). The domains assessed by the standards include social and emotional development, physical well-being and motor skills, approaches toward learning, and language and literacy skills, as well as cognition and general knowledge (ODE, 2012).
As the present evaluation project aims to assess the ECFE program’s effectiveness in preparing children and parents for primary school, the sample should consist of students aged four to five years, and their parents, who have completed the full ECFE course. The sample may include both current students as well as past students who have completed the course within the past two years. To obtain comprehensive information, the sample should include about two dozen students and their parents. The subjects will be chosen by random sampling. The evaluation should also include educators working with preschool-aged children and their parents.
The number of educators involved in the evaluation should be no less than 50 percent of the teaching staff currently employed in the ECFE program. Given that the number of educators is considerably smaller than the number of students and parents, the evaluation team should seek to employ as many educators as possible and then apply random sampling to choose participants for the evaluation. Overall, random sampling will help to decrease the number of people involved in the evaluation without affecting the validity of the study, as the use of this sampling technique ensures that the chosen sample is representative of the entire student, parent, and educator population.
To provide a comprehensive evaluation of the program, a wide range of data is to be collected. First, it is necessary to review the children’s and parents’ formative assessment results as marked by educators. These results should be provided by the program staff and include the results received by students and parents within two months before program completion, which will ensure that they reflect current levels of skills, knowledge, and development. The educators should also provide lesson plans supported by rationale. The next stage of the research will be to evaluate the ECFE program by applying the appropriate early education standards.
After this process is complete, the children chosen for the sample should be evaluated in terms of school preparedness against the early development standards. Psychological tests should also be used to assess the children’s psychological development, levels of stress, and more. The final stage of data collection is to conduct semi-structured interviews with the children, parents, and educators, aiming to outline their perceptions of the program and its results.
To ensure that the evaluation process adheres to ethical requirements, it will be necessary to obtain informed consent from all parents participating in the evaluation. The parents should provide consent for the researchers to access test results and conduct interviews, as well as to use information in the evaluation process and to include it in the report. Educators should provide consent for the information obtained from the interviews to be used in the evaluation and addressed in the report, as well as permission to use lesson plans and other educational information for evaluation purposes.
The informed consent should be provided in written form and specify the types of information that can be used in the assessment and included in the final report. Also, the researchers should avoid using any personal information of the subjects, such as name, date of birth, marital status, etc. unless explicit permission is obtained from the subject or his or her parents.
Each type of data collected requires applying different methods of analysis, making the evaluation a complicated, multi-step process requiring significant dedication, time, and effort on the part of the researchers. The first stage of data analysis will be to summarize the results of the formative assessment. Children’s and parents’ results should be considered separately. The test scores obtained by the subjects should be organized by subject areas and translated into percentage form. Mean values should be used to evaluate the overall performance of the subjects, and standard deviation calculations should be made to identify the degree of variation from mean values.
Lesson plan assessment should be made by the applicable lesson plan evaluation rubric for early learning and development, with mean values and standard deviation identifying the overall results across the program. The analysis of the children’s overall school preparedness should follow the same pattern, with mean and standard deviation results provided for each domain evaluated. Semi-structured interviews with parents and staff should be analyzed using the grounded theory approach to outlining common themes and concepts. A detailed overview of the results of the analysis should be presented in a written report.
Timeline and Costs
The first stage of the evaluation includes sampling procedures and collecting informed consent. Considering the scope of the project and the number of people involved, this stage should be completed within two weeks. The next stage of the evaluation is data collection. It will take up to two weeks to receive assessment results from the staff. During this time, assessment of the program and children’s development using the appropriate standards can be done. The timeline for conducting semi-structured interviews with staff, parents, and children depends on the availability of the subjects. Still, it is likely that it will take approximately two weeks to complete all interviews. The data obtained should be processed within three weeks, and the final report can be constructed in two weeks, with an additional week needed to proofread and improve the presentation. The overall evaluation timeline is as follows:
- Sampling—two weeks;
- Data collection—four weeks;
- Data analysis—three weeks;
- Write-up—three weeks.
The cost of the evaluation project depends largely on whether the subjects will agree to be interviewed voluntarily. In this case, the cost of the project will consist only of the researcher’s pay for three months of work. If the subjects should not agree to be interviewed voluntarily, each family included in the evaluation will receive $50 for participation, and every staff member will be paid $20 for the interview.
We expect the children to show an adequate level of development for preschool age, with some exhibiting minor problems in certain areas of development, such as creative arts or mathematical science. The children’s motor, language, and social skills should be satisfactory for primary school entry. The parents’ formative assessment results are likely to be more varied. Still, the overall trends exhibited by the families should show the absence of strict parenting practices, a good understanding of the parents’ and children’s roles, and the knowledge of guidelines and recommendations for school transition. The program structure is expected to be based largely on previous educational research and to be adequately adjusted annually based on the current trends and developments in education.
Overall, the proposed evaluation plan takes into account the needs of the program’s main stakeholders concerning primary school transition. However, it is also designed to provide a reliable assessment of the program’s design and results, following official standards and guidelines for early development and education. For example, the semi-structured interviews with staff, parents, and children will help to outline their perceptions of the program’s usefulness in preparing children for primary school.
Moreover, the interviews will help to indicate persistent concerns, which in turn can help the educators to improve the structure of the program or the assessment tools used, making the educational course more efficient. The application of official standards, rubrics, and other assessment tools to the evaluation, on the other hand, provides an opportunity to outline the learning outcomes and children’s readiness in terms of mean values and standard deviation, thus determining the quantitative results of the assessment.
Furthermore, the research design allows identifying specific weaknesses as the evaluation results are measured in separate domains. This will make it easier for program coordinators to identify and address any existing gaps. Finally, the time frame of the proposed evaluation project is relatively concise, which means that the results of the assessment will be available in a timely fashion. Overall, I believe that applying the proposed evaluation plan to the ECFE program will help to assess the program’s effectiveness and provide guidelines for developing and improving the course to suit the needs of children and their families.
Ames, P. (2012). Language, culture and identity in the transition to primary school: Challenges to indigenous children’s rights to education in Peru. International Journal of Educational Development, 32(3), 454-462. Web.
Chan, W. L. (2012). Expectations for the transition from kindergarten to primary school amongst teachers, parents and children. Early Child Development and Care, 182(5), 639-664. Web.
Frye, A. W., & Hemmer, P. A. (2012). Program evaluation models and related theories: AMEE Guide No. 67. Medical Teacher, 34(5), 288-299. Web.
Giallo, R., Treyvaud, K., Matthews, J., & Kienhuis, M. (2010). Making the transition to primary school: An evaluation of a transition program for parents. Australian Journal of Educational & Developmental Psychology, 10(1), 1-17. Web.
Johnson, R. B., & Dick, W. (2012). Evaluation in instructional design: A comparison of evaluation models. Web.
Li, H. C. W., Chan, S. S., Mak, Y. W., & Lam, T. H. (2013). Effectiveness of a parental training programme in enhancing the parent–child relationship and reducing harsh parenting practices and parental stress in preparing children for their transition to primary school: A randomised controlled trial. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 1079-1090. Web.
Office of Early Learning (OEL). (2016). School readiness program: Health and safety standards handbook. Web.
Ohio Department of Education (ODE). (2012). Ohio’s early learning and development standards in all essential domains of school readiness (birth – age 5). Web.