CAT ASTOR Early Learning Program

Researchers have long observed persistent disparities in literacy outcomes, particularly among students from lower socioeconomic status families and among English language learners. Although academic achievement gaps begin prior to formal schooling, schools have a role in reducing these educational gaps in the early grades, if successful practices are maintained. Nevertheless, gross differences in the quality of teacher instruction and curriculum development persistently contributes to the achievement gap. The Creative Arts Team Early Learning Program (CAT-ELP) merges an interactive drama approach with mentor-model professional development. The model is designed to develop early childhood (K-2) teacher pedagogy so that it integrates interactive drama strategies into literacy instruction. Through this interactive drama method of literacy instruction, CAT-ELP aims to shift classroom practices to be participant-centered to facilitate improved students’ literacy performance and school-based social emotional skills. CAT-ELP seeks to embed its model in elementary schools across select school districts. To broaden the scope of impact, the program engages parents in workshops.

Over the past three years, REPS has conducted an implementation and impact evaluation of CAT-ELP’s pedagogical intervention for literacy instruction in schools with high poverty and high English Language Learner (ELL) populations. Prior evaluations in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years provided preliminary evidence of positive impacts on students’ literacy scores and school-based social emotional skills. REPS utilized a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to examine data from actor teacher focus group, teacher rubrics and surveys, principal interviews, student-level NYCDOE data, service levels data, and parent workshop surveys. Recently, our evaluation is preliminarily examining CAT-ELP’s effort to impact district-wide professional development through district trainers’ survey.

The evaluation is driven by five questions.

  1. To what extent does CAT-ELP influences changes in teachers’ pedagogical approach?
  2. Do participating students have better literacy outcomes than non-participating students and to what extent are these outcomes better? If outcomes are better, is the impact maintained in the second year of participation?
  3. What are the successes and challenges of CAT-ELP implementation for the repeating and new cohorts of schools?
  4. How does the program influence parental approach to supporting student literacy development?
  5. How does CAT-ELP impact school and district instructional culture?

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K-12 Learning & Instruction