Leveling the playing field: An intervention to promote school readiness and human potential

Last registered on June 05, 2017


Trial Information

General Information

Leveling the playing field: An intervention to promote school readiness and human potential
Initial registration date
June 05, 2017

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
June 05, 2017, 10:02 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator

University of Stavanger

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Oregon State University
PI Affiliation
University of Chicago
PI Affiliation
University of stavanger
PI Affiliation
University of stavanger

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Research Council Norway 237973
Our project investigates whether the Norwegian universal daycare system can improve children's developmental trajectories by more systematically cultivate key school readiness skills known to promote future learning. To do so, we collaborate with daycare teachers to design and implement a randomized controlled trial in which we offer five-year-olds at Norwegian daycare centers a school readiness intervention program. The intervention program cultivates four sets of school readiness skills - self-regulatory, social-emotional, language and math skills - which numerous studies have identified as foundational for future learning and development. 71 daycare centers and 701 children participate in the field experiment, with 36 randomly selected centers in the treatment group.
The intervention year is the school year 2016/2017. We assess the children's self-regulatory, social-emotional, language and math skills in August 2016 (pre-intervention), June 2017 (first post-test) and June 2018 (second post-test). Additionally, we investigate effects on official mapping tests conducted by schools, and longer term outcomes on school performance collected from registry data. For all outcomes, we will investigate differential intervention effects across parental education, income, immigrant background, gender and pre-intervention competencies.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Kalil, Ariel et al. 2017. "Leveling the playing field: An intervention to promote school readiness and human potential." AEA RCT Registry. June 05. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2241-1.0
Former Citation
Kalil, Ariel et al. 2017. "Leveling the playing field: An intervention to promote school readiness and human potential." AEA RCT Registry. June 05. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2241/history/18261
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details


The intervention focuses on cultivating four sets of skills that the ECEC literature has identified as particularly important to promote future development: Socio-emotional skills, self regulatory-skills, language and math. We stimulate these skills through a playful learning approach. The daycare teachers play with the 5-year-olds using playful learning activities at least eight hours every week for a full daycare year. Prior to the intervention the daycare teachers participated in a 15 credit point continuing education class.
The curriculum was created in a multi step process. First, a multi disciplinary team of researchers (including researchers with many years of experience working as daycare teachers) studied existing curricula in detail. We selected curricula based on two criteria: 1) Documented gain in socio-emotional, self-regulatory, language and math development, and 2) Promise for implementation in the Norwegian culture and daycare context. This narrowed down the list of curricula we used as inspiration for a curriculum to be used in the Norwegian context to: Stop, think act (McClelland & Tominey, 2016), I Can Problem Solve (Shure, 1992), Interactive Book Reading (Mol, Bus, & de Jong, 2009), Building Blocks (Clements & Sarama, 2011), California preschool curriculum framework (California Department of Education, 2016), and Tools of the mind (Bodrova og Leong, 2007).
Second, inspired by the selected curricula, we drafted outlines for more than 130 playful learning activities, stimulating the four key school readiness skills. The main objective was to provide material and inspiration for teachers to craft a more intentional practice.
Third, we collaborated with the 42 daycare teachers in our treatment group to pilot the playful learning activities (see Experimental Design). As part of the education, they tried out the drafted activities with the 5-year-olds in their own daycare, and wrote an assignment on what worked, what did not work, and suggested possible alternative activities. Throughout the year, each daycare teacher had to provide us with oral and written feedback on multiple activities. At the end of the school year, we had critical and constructive feedback from all daycare teachers on each of the activities. This resulted in a substantial revision adapting the playful learning activities to Norwegian culture and context.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
In order to examine intervention effects on school readiness (daycare) and school adjustment (first grade), we will assess children’s skills using both official mapping tests conducted by schools, and direct assessment organized by the researchers. Direct measures of children’s skills will be conducted both in daycare and in school, and for this we rely on computer tablet instruments, which contain a specially designed APP with a test battery developed for transition between daycare and school.
For daycare children (pre and post intervention), this battery includes the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task (HTKS) and the Hearts and Flowers task (Davidson, Amso, Anderson, & Diamond, 2006) for the assessment of self-regulation (Cameron Ponitz et al., 2008; McClelland & Cameron, 2011; Ponitz, McClelland, Matthews, & Morrison, 2009). Furthermore, vocabulary will be assessed with the Norwegian Vocabulary Test (NVT) (Størksen et al., 2013) and early math skills with the Ani Banani Math Test (ABMT) (Størksen & Mosvold, 2013). Emergent literacy will be assessed with a subtest from screenings for Early Reading developed by The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. For school children, we will use a similar battery. In the Skoleklar study there was found a relatively high reliability across test, e.g. with Cronbach’s Alpha scores for HTKS of α=.76, for NVT of α =.84, and for ABMT of α =.73. In the present study we will only include highly valid and reliable measures for child development. Furthermore, children’s math and literacy at school will be measured with the aid of standardized mapping tests that schools conduct in first, second and third grade.
The project design – with codes that are connected to the children’s person numbers – gives the potential to follow the children in the field experiment through many years. We will match our data with registry data from Statistics Norway, which allows us to investigate new outcomes as the children grow older. In particular, we will investigate school performance and GPA at ages 10, 13, and 16, and high school attendance and completion. When the children turn 18 years, we plan to collect new consents to continue the investigations on college education and labor market performance.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We investigate effects of the school readiness intervention in an RCT with 71 participating daycare centers. After recruitment, the daycare director and the teacher(s) responsible for the five year olds, signed an agreement detailing responsibilities and expectations. Moreover, they assisted us in collecting informed consent from the parents (700 children). Thereafter, the centers were randomized (block randomization) into treated and control.

The treatment has two stages. First, daycare teachers in the treated group participated in a 15 credit point continuing education class during the school year 2015/2016. The class presents cutting-edge international research on the impact of a more intentional practice with curricular foci on school readiness. Furthermore, as part of the class, daycare teachers practiced and took ownership of what they learnt by collaborating in the development of the playful learning activities in the Agder project. Second, daycare teachers in treated group implemented the school readiness intervention in their daycare center during the school year 2016/2017. The daycare teachers committed to spend at least eight hours every week working with the playful learning activities in the curriculum.

The ECEC centers in the control group continued as before, and were given access to the intervention, material and training, when the implementation was completed.

We assess the children in August 2016 (pre-test), June 2017 (first post-test) and June 2018 (second post-test). In all assessments, the tester is trained and certified in the assessment tools, and blind to treatment status. In addition to the assessment organized by the researchers, we also investigate effects on official mapping tests conducted by schools.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Prior to randomization, daycare centers were divided into blocks, each consisting of 2 daycare centers. The two daycare centers within each block were as similar as possible with respect to location (municipality) and size (number of 5 year old children).
Randomization was then conducted within each block, done in office by a computer with witness.
Randomization Unit
The unit of randomization was daycare center.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
71 daycare centers.
Initially 72 daycare centers participated, but one daycare center in the control group withdrew from the project.
Sample size: planned number of observations
701 children
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
36 daycare centers in treated and 35 in control
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
There are on average 12 children in each daycare center, and the correlation between children is 0.05. We use a 95% confidence interval in interpreting power. Following this, we have 80 percent power to identify effect sizes of 0.25 standard deviation. When controlling for pre-intervention test scores, in addition to controls for characteristics of daycare centers, children and parents, statistical power is likely to be improved.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Datatilsynet)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number