Research & Results

KITS proven to make a difference

Two randomized efficacy trials (tests where one group is randomly assigned to receive the KITS Program and one group does not) have been conducted on the intervention. One trial focused on the effects of the intervention on children in foster care (the KITS Foster Care Study). The other focused on the effects of the intervention on children who received early childhood special education/early intervention services who also had behavior and/or social problems that might interfere with the transition to school (the KITS Developmental Disabilities Study).

These studies show the KITS Program has significant effects on children’s skills. In particular, KITS was associated with:
  • Gains on early literacy (including letter naming abilities, letter-sound recognition, and understanding of conventions of print).
  • Gains on self-regulation skills (including controlling their behaviors and emotions) during the summer before kindergarten and better self-regulation out to the end of the kindergarten year. This means children may be better able to focus in the classroom and less likely to disrupt the class.
  • Less oppositional and aggressive behavior in the classroom in the spring of kindergarten.
  • Decreases in ineffective parenting across the summer which led to more parental involvement in school during the kindergarten year.

Most recently, with funding from the United Way of Lane County and OSLC, in partnership with the Bethel and Springfield School Districts in Oregon, the KITS program was offered to families in the Lane County Promise Neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are some of the most disadvantaged in the county in terms of income, education, and crime. Preliminary results from this pilot study indicate that the children in the KITS Program showed similar gains in early literacy and self-regulation skills as children in the other two studies. For example, in the group of children receiving the KITS Program there was a 28% drop in the number children at risk for reading failure as measured by phonological awareness and a 40% drop in the number of children at risk for difficulties with concepts about print.

Additionally, children showed decreases in aggressive responses to peers. Ninety-five percent of parents in the KITS Program felt that the program had improved their abilities to prepare their children for school and 85% felt that the program had improved how they read to their children. Further, 95% of parents said that the program had improved their abilities to increase their child’s positive behaviors.

This pilot study led to a grant funded by the Institute of Education Sciences to test the KITS Program with children in the Promise Neighborhoods.

Research

Bibliography of Selected Publications for the Kids In Transition to School (KITS) Program

Pears, K. C., Kim, H. K., & Fisher, P. A. (2012). Effects of a school readiness intervention for children in foster care on oppositional and aggressive behaviors in kindergarten. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 2361-2366. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661284/

One hundred ninety-two children in foster care participated in a randomized efficacy trial of a school readiness intervention, the Kids In Transition to School (KITS) Program, designed to increase literacy, social, and self-regulation skills in children before kindergarten entry. One hundred two children were randomly assigned to the KITS intervention and 90 were randomly assigned to the foster care services as usual comparison group. At the end of the kindergarten year, teachers were asked to report on the children’s oppositional and aggressive behaviors in the classroom. Controlling for gender, baseline levels of parent-reported oppositional and aggressive behaviors, and level of disruptiveness in the classroom, children who had received the intervention had significantly lower levels of oppositional and aggressive behaviors in the classroom. Findings suggest that an intervention designed to increase school readiness in children in foster care can have positive effects on kindergarten classroom behavior.

Pears, K. C., Fisher, P. A., Kim, H. K., Bruce, J., Healey, C. V., & Yoerger, K. (2013). Immediate effects of a school readiness intervention for children in foster care. Early Education and Development, 24(6), 771-791. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3760738/

School readiness is a strong predictor of school adjustment in elementary school and beyond. Children in foster care are at particular risk for academic and social difficulties in school. Limitations in self-regulatory skills and caregiver involvement might contribute to a lack of school readiness. This study presents the short-term results on school readiness of a brief, intensive intervention designed to improve children’s early literacy, prosocial, and self-regulatory skills during the summer before kindergarten entry. Within a randomized efficacy trial, the intervention was tested on 192 children. Multimethod, multiagent assessments were conducted prior to and immediately following the school readiness intervention. SEM analyses indicated that the intervention had significant, positive effects on early literacy and self-regulatory skills.

Pears, K. C., Healey, C. V., Fisher, P. A., Braun, D., Gill, C., Conte, H. M., Newman, J., & Ticer, S. (2014). Immediate effects of a program to promote school readiness in low-income children: Results of a pilot study. Education and Treatment of Children, 37(3), 431-460. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25382932

Children from low-income backgrounds demonstrate poorer school readiness skills than their higher-income peers. The Kids In Transition to School (KITS) Program was developed to increase early literacy, social, and self-regulatory skills among children with inadequate school readiness. In the present study, 39 families participated in a pilot efficacy trial conducted through a community collaboration to examine the feasibility and impact of the KITS program with families from disadvantaged neighborhoods. Participating families were demographically representative of the larger populations in the participating school districts. Children who received the intervention demonstrated significantly greater improvements in letter naming, initial sound fluency, and understanding of concepts about print than their peers who did not participate in the intervention, as well as decreases in aggressive responses to peer provocation and increases in self-regulation skills. Results suggest that a brief, focused school readiness intervention is feasible to conduct with low-income families and may improve critical skills.

Pears, K. C., Kim, H. K., Healey, C., Yoerger, K., & Fisher, P. A. (2015). Improving child self-regulation and parenting in families of pre-kindergarten children with developmental disabilities and behavioral difficulties. Prevention Science, 16(2), 222-232. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24676874

The transition to school may be particularly difficult for children with developmental disabilities and behavioral difficulties. Such children are likely to experience problems with self-regulation skills, which are critical to school adjustment. Additionally, inconsistent discipline practices and low parental involvement in children’s schooling may contribute to a poor transition to school. This study employed a randomized clinical trial to examine the effects of a school readiness intervention that focused on children’s self-regulation skills as well as parenting and parental involvement in school. Results showed that the intervention had positive effects on children’s self-regulation in kindergarten as measured by teacher and observer reports. Additionally, the intervention significantly reduced ineffective parenting prior to school entry, which in turn affected parental involvement. This finding is significant because it demonstrates that parental involvement in school may be increased by efforts to improve parenting skills in general. Overall, the study demonstrated that school adjustment across kindergarten among children with developmental disabilities and behavioral difficulties can be enhanced through an intervention aimed specifically at improving school readiness skills.