This study employs an RCT design to assess the causal impact of Ready4K summer supplements on children’s school readiness. The main research questions of interest are:
Does parent participation in a text-messaging program, designed to support children’s healthy development and early skill-building, in the summer months before kindergarten impact children’s kindergarten readiness?
Does a tailored summer program, with specific content for the geographic area where the family resides, affect kindergarten readiness differently than a general summer program?
Is there variation in program impact by characteristics of the preschool setting or characteristics of the child and family?
Parents of four-year old children in participating early childhood program sites, 4K and Head Start, will be randomly assigned to one of the three treatment conditions with equal probability within each site. In this block-randomized design, early childhood program sites are the blocks, and individual parents within sites will be assigned to each treatment condition (one-third of the within-site sample in each condition). For the purposes of answering the first research question, the two summer supplement treatment groups will be pooled.
This effort and accompanying study will be deployed in Wisconsin’s public pre-kindergarten program, 4K, and Head Start sites in three communities across the state. These are among the largest school districts in the state, facilitating large and diverse samples. Because the preschool programs in question are subsidized, children come predominantly from low-income families, particularly in Head Start programs for which eligibility is conditioned on family disadvantage. The largest school district in particular, located in an urban area, has a racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse student population. Ready4K programming, including the summer supplement, is available in English and Spanish and has been developed with cultural appropriateness in diverse settings in mind. For the purposes of this project, the research team will also work with Ready4K to make the program accessible to families in the study districts.
With assumptions about the proportion of the four-year old cohort that will matriculate in kindergarten in the fall of 2019 (80 percent), and the parent opt-in rate (75 percent), we arrive at a sample size of approximately 1,000 families in the three communities, with approximately one-third of participating parents assigned to each treatment condition. An early childhood program site in this context includes schools, private childcare centers with state-funded 4K slots, community-based centers, and Head Start centers.