Researchers from New York University discovered a program designed to reduce behavior problems among low-income kindergartners and first graders also improved performance in math and reading.
Their findings point to the value of well-designed interventions to improve education, the study’s authors say.
The research is published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.
“Supporting young low-income children so they can reach their potential in the classroom and beyond is of vital importance,” said Sandee McClowry, Ph.D., the study’s senior author.
“Our findings show that learning is enhanced when it also addresses the social and emotional development of children.”
Prior studies have discovered that growing up in poverty significantly increases the likelihood that children will begin school well behind their more economically advantaged peers.
Moreover, other research has revealed that children from poor families often start school with inadequate social-emotional skills, which can stymie academic progress.
The impact of these phenomena is particularly felt in pre-kindergarten through third grade.
In recent decades, researchers have created interventions designed to address these matters. Among them is INSIGHTS Into Children’s Temperament, which provides teachers and parents with a framework for appreciating and supporting differences in the personalities of children.
During the 10-week period, teachers and parents are also taught child management strategies that match the child’s temperament.
In addition, children participate in 10 weekly sessions in their classrooms.
As part of this program, educators employ puppets depicting four temperaments — Fredrico the Friendly, Gregory the Grumpy, Hilary the Hard Worker, and Coretta the Cautious — to help children understand and solve dilemmas they face on a daily basis.
In their study, the researchers randomized 22 urban elementary schools serving low-income families to either the INSIGHTS intervention or a supplemental reading program, which served as a control condition. Participants included 435 students in 122 classrooms.
Students received the intervention during the second half of kindergarten and the first half of first grade, with their parents and teachers participating during the same time period.
The researchers collected data on students’ progress at five different points during the studied period using standardized tools to measure temperament, attention span, behavioral problems, and reading/math achievement.
Their results showed that children enrolled in INSIGHTS experienced growth in math and reading achievement and sustained attention that was significantly faster than that of children enrolled in the supplemental reading program.
In addition, children participating in INSIGHTS showed decreases in behavior problems over time while those enrolled in the supplemental reading program demonstrated increases.
Source: New York University