Can a Scalable Parenting Program Improve Children’s Readiness for School? An Evaluation of the LENA Start Program.

Last registered on October 17, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Can a Scalable Parenting Program Improve Children’s Readiness for School? An Evaluation of the LENA Start Program.
Initial registration date
October 11, 2022

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
October 17, 2022, 5:21 PM EDT

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


Primary Investigator

Rice University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Rice University

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
We will study the LENA Start Program (LSP) implemented by the Alief Independent School District in Houston, Texas. We aim to investigate the determinants of high-quality parent-child interactions. In particular, we will evaluate if LSP raises the quality of the language environment by changing maternal expectations about the importance of verbal interactions for language development.

Our study is significant for public policy because the LSP is a highly-scalable parent-directed language intervention that school districts, hospitals, and public libraries offer to families across the USA. In 2021, approximately 2,000 families enrolled in this ten-week, center- and group-based program.

Every LSP section has three parts: education (we teach parents about early brain and language development), coaching (parents watch videos of other parents’ verbal interactions with children), and objective feedback (parents receive a report of the quality of the language environment). The program also encourages parents to read books to children. Finally, once every three months, the parents complete the LENA Development Snapshot (a parent-report assessment of a child’s language development).

During this study, Alief ISD will enroll N = 360 families, which we will randomly assign to LSP or control. We will collect data at baseline and endline. In the baseline, we will measure the language and the home environments, parental beliefs, and the child’s language development. In the endline, approximately 10 weeks later, we will assess the language and the home environments, and parental beliefs.

We will report two treatment-effect parameters. First, we will estimate the Intent-To-Treat. We expect that some treatment families will not enroll in the program. Note that we will not allow control parents to enroll in the program. Therefore, we will also use enrollment and assignment to implement a two-stage least squares procedure to estimate the effect of the treatment on the treated parameter.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Cunha, Flavio and Snejana Nihtianova. 2022. "Can a Scalable Parenting Program Improve Children’s Readiness for School? An Evaluation of the LENA Start Program.." AEA RCT Registry. October 17.
Sponsors & Partners



Experimental Details


LENA Start Program: LENA Start is an evidence-based community program designed to engage families and help them learn how to increase conversation with their children during the first few years of life.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
1. Quality of the language environment (LENA).
2. Quality of the home environment (StimQ)
3. Parental beliefs
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
1. Quality of the language environment
We use the LENA System to measure the quality of the language environment at home. LENA is an integrated processing and cloud-based software package that enables researchers to collect, manage and analyze multiple recordings of children ages 2 months to 48 months. LENA device estimates adult words spoken to and around the key child, adult-child conversational interactions, child vocalizations, and language from Television and/or electronics.
2. Measurement of the child’s home environment
The StimQ instrument is a 39-point scale for measuring cognitive stimulation in the homes of
children. It includes four:
• Availability of Learning Materials: It describes the type of learning materials available to a child
• Reading Scale: It measures the number of books in the home and the number of days spent reading to the child.
• Parental Involvement in the Developmental Advance: It is a summary statistic based on parental involvement in child development.
• Parental Verbal Responsivity (PVR). It is a summary statistic produced by adding the total number of 'Yes' responses to four questions regarding parental verbal responsibility.
3. Parent’s beliefs
We will elicit parental beliefs about the importance of language environment for language development. This instrument has two parts. In the first part, it creates hypothetical scenarios of language environment, and asks parents to predict the child’s language development one year later. The second part contains statements that parents agree or disagree.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)

Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Individuals will be randomly assigned to either the control group or the treatment group. Participants who enroll in this study will meet with the research team up to twelve times, either in person or virtually. There will be two visits as part of the LENA Start evaluation study during which the Rice study team will collect data through the parent survey, Cognitive Home Environment (StimQ) instrument, MacArthur questionnaire, and Language Development Snapshot. The other ten meetings will be weekly meetings in which the parents will complete the LENA Start program. Only the parents who are selected by the random lottery will participate in the ten weekly LENA start program meetings.
The randomization will be stratified by campus. It will assign 15 parents per campus to the control group, and 15 parents per campus to the treatment group. There will be three cohorts for which this randomization is conducted.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
The randomization to divide participants into treatment and control groups will be done on a Rice University computer using Microsoft Excel.
Randomization Unit
Participants will be assigned to either the treatment or control group on the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Two Alief ISD schools.
Sample size: planned number of observations
160 parents to treatment and 160 to control group.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
During this study, Alief ISD will enroll N = 360 families, which we will randomly assign to LENA Start Program or control.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Rice University IRB
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

Data Analysis Plan

MD5: 04399913cf9a65029e6ea1addebdb627

SHA1: 114cad1444cbc69f53e97055962201e6dd33618d

Uploaded At: October 11, 2022