Young children who participated in a summer kindergarten transition program had higher attendance rates and stronger literacy skills in kindergarten than those who entered school without the program, according to a new study from the Multnomah County Partnership for Education Research (MCPER).
The research focuses on the Early Kindergarten Transition (EKT) initiative offered by the Portland (OR) Public Schools, a three-week program designed to familiarize children — especially those without preschool experience — with school routines, encourage social skills and support parents through the transition process.
The study, the authors suggest, is also a strong example of a school district-university partnership that provides school leaders with important research findings that they might not have had otherwise.
In addition to documenting the benefits of the summer transition program, the study highlights the value of forming partnerships with university researchers to conduct studies of instructional practices or policies.
While large districts might have research and evaluation experts on staff, smaller districts, or those that have experienced budget cutbacks in recent years, might not have that expertise available. School districts, however, need evidence that specific practices or programs are effective, or not. The research might also provide lessons for other districts trying to address the same challenges.
In addition, school districts benefit by having an outside viewpoint on their efforts. In the study, for example, EKT’s program manager said that MCPER — a collaboration between the University of Portland School of Education and the Northwest Evaluation Association — “went over and above expectations because they provided us not only the data we needed, but an improved template for going forward.” Such partnerships between school districts and universities also build graduate students’ research skills by giving them opportunities to collaborate with school districts.