The Nurturing Parenting (NP) program is designed to foster positive parenting practices within families.

December 12, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

The Pathways to Success Partnership, a joint collaboration between Shelby County Schools (SCS) and the Urban Child Institute, has been researching factors associated with positive early childhood development, kindergarten readiness, and later academic achievement for several years.
Recently, they teamed with the PeopleFirst Initiative and the Early Success Coalition to study whether implementing an intentional positive parenting program in selected SCS pre-kindergarten (pre-k) classrooms will positively impact children’s success in school, as well as the interactions that parents and teachers have with those children.

The results of this study will help to inform whether implementation of an NP-informed curriculum will help to foster positive parenting practices and, in doing so, support children’s development and kindergarten readiness.

Read more in our full brief.


Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-05)

Family Routines and Positive Parenting Practices Help to Support Kindergarten Readiness

October 22, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

In a recent analysis, the Shelby County Schools (SCS) and The Urban Child Institute (UCI) study group looked at the ways family routines and other positive parenting practices support the readiness of new kindergarten students. Research tells us that family routines, like regular bedtime or mealtime routines, help children develop self-control and self-confidence. Family routines also help strengthen children’s early language and literacy skills.

When it comes to these routines, it seems that more is better.

When families have a range of daily routines that involve both parents and children, those children are more likely to develop strong social and emotional skills, and reach school with more powerful language, academic, and social skills.

Last fall, we asked parents of incoming kindergarteners to tell us about their family routines. Parents were asked how often they engaged in different types of routines with their pre-schoolers, like getting ready in the morning, getting ready for bedtime, or at mealtimes. Parents were also asked about a range of other positive parenting practices, like reading with their children, singing the alphabet, and playing counting and sorting games.

Parents’ responses were then compared to their children’s kindergarten readiness scores. Each fall, incoming kindergarteners in Shelby County are given a measure of reading readiness called the Istation Early Reading  assessment, which helps the district see if a student is performing at grade level, moderately below grade level, or severely below grade level. For this study, we compared the Istation Early Reading scores of 354 new kindergarteners with information on family routines collected from their parents.

The results are telling.

When families establish and try to keep to regular routines – particularly around getting ready in the morning or getting ready for bed – their children are significantly more likely to reach kindergarten on grade level for Istation Early Reading.

These findings are good news for parents because they offer small ways that we can all support our children’s school readiness.

Read more in our full brief.


Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-03)

Contributing Authors: Marie Sell, Doug Imig, Shahin Samiei
A Partnership between The Urban Child Institute and Shelby County Schools

The Benefits of Pre-K: What the Research Shows

July 17, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

What is universal pre-kindergarten? 

Pre-kindergarten refers to programs that provide a year of education prior to entry into kindergarten. Universal programs are voluntary state programs that are open to all age-eligible children. Currently, the majority of state-funded Pre-K programs are targeted programs that primarily serve at-risk children (usually based on low family income).

How does Pre-K benefit children?

Research shows that Pre-K programs are typically of higher quality than other preschools or center-based programs and that Pre-K children are better prepared for school (Barnett 2008, Magnuson 2007).

For states that have already implemented universal Pre-K, the results have been impressive. 
  • Studies of Oklahoma’s Pre-K program find significant effects on test scores, language development, and motor skills at kindergarten entry (Gormley 2005).
  • Early gains were still detectable in 3rd grade (Hill 2012).
  • An evaluation of Georgia’s Pre-K program found that participants had stronger cognitive and language skills in kindergarten than children who did not attend (Henry 2006).


The benefits of Pre-K are not limited to test scores.

Children who receive high-quality Pre-K have:

  • better attendance
  • fewer behavior problems
  • increased chances of reading at grade level in 4th grade (Hill 2006, Gormley 2011).
Tennessee’s targeted Pre-K program has been shown to boost school readiness. 
  • An ongoing independent evaluation has found that during the year before kindergarten, Pre-K children develop literacy, language, and math skills faster than non-participating children.
  • Gains made by Pre-K children are 37 to 176 percent greater than those of non-Pre-K children and persist into the elementary grades.
  • When they begin kindergarten, Pre-K children are rated more highly than their peers on teachers’ assessments of school readiness (Lipsey 2011, SRG 2008).

How does Pre-K benefit communities?

How does universal, state-funded Pre-K compare to other programs?

Download full brief (PDF, 07/2014)

Positive role models in a child’s neighborhood are linked to school success in Memphis, TN.

June 23, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /
When parents feel like their neighbors are positive role models, their children reach kindergarten “more ready” to take on the task of early reading.

There are many resources that can help to support families with young children. Some resources, such as health insurance, sufficient nutrition, and books and toys, can support healthy early childhood development directly. Other resources, such as a safe home, help to support a family’s well-being, and reduce a child’s exposure to chaos and toxic stress. There is also a third category of resources that are not tied to a family’s income.


These include the set of relationships and informal resources that a family can draw upon in times of need. For some families, these informal relationships provide a source of support. The help of extended family, neighbors, and friends can offer a safety net and provide an important resource to families. Collectively, these informal relationships are considered a large component of a family’s level of “social capital.”

The influence of having an informal network of interpersonal resources has been well documented on a range of outcomes for individuals and for communities. When neighbors keep a watch out for each other and keep a protective eye on each other’s homes and property, for example, not only do residents feel safer, but by objective measures, crime actually is lower in those neighborhoods.

If these informal resources are important for family well-being, is it possible that they also support early childhood development? In turn, do they help to support school readiness?

Our findings are striking: when parents feel like their neighbors are positive role models, their children reach kindergarten “more ready” to take on the task of early reading.

These findings help to strengthen our understanding of the ways that neighborhood characteristics can matter for early childhood well-being. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, and this is particularly true for families trying to juggle the many demands of modern life. Having a neighbor or friend to count on for help can make a tremendous difference for families, including better outcomes for their children.

Read more in our full brief.


Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-02)

Contributing Authors: Marie Sell, Doug Imig, Shahin Samiei
A Partnership between The Urban Child Institute and Shelby County Schools

Books from Birth participation in Shelby County is linked to stronger reading performance in second grade.

May 23, 2014 / Local Data / 0 Comments /
Prior findings: Kindergarten entry

Children who participated in the Books from Birth program prior to kindergarten entry had statistically higher kindergarten readiness scores in language and mathematics than children not enrolled in the program.

Follow-up: Second grade

Our analysis indicates that students who had participated in the Books from Birth program prior to kindergarten entry had higher scores in reading development in second grade, compared to students who had not participated.

BfB children are more likely to be in the strongest tier and least likely to be in the weakest tier of readers in 2nd grade.

Significant differences in vocabulary and reading comprehension

The two subtests most fundamentally linked to early reading experiences are the two that showed significant differences between BfB participants and non-participants, namely vocabulary and reading comprehension.

The BfB advantage remains after we control for other factors associated with reading development

These findings are not a result of group differences in socioeconomic status or gender.

Read more in our full brief.


Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-01)

Contributing Authors: Marie Sell, Doug Imig, Shahin Samiei
A Partnership between The Urban Child Institute and Shelby County Schools

In 2013, two in three children in Shelby County entered kindergarten below age-appropriate levels of reading readiness.

January 27, 2014 / Local Data / 0 Comments /

Source: 12. Sell, M. (2013). Research Brief: Kindergarten Readiness. Shelby County Schools Office of Planning and Accountability, Office of Research, Planning, and Improvement.

Low-income children have weaker early reading skills. Most children in Shelby County Schools are from low-income families.

January 27, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

Low-income children have weaker early reading skills.
Weaker pre-reading skills make learning to read more difficult.
Kindergarten readiness gaps become academic achievement gaps.


Download Brief 02/2014 (PDF)

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Many children in Shelby County reach school at a disadvantage.

January 23, 2014 / Uncategorized / 0 Comments /

Adverse early childhood experiences influence language development in the early years.
Early disadvantages in development lead to lower levels of kindergarten readiness.
Readiness gaps become academic achievement gaps and grow wider over time.


Download Brief 01/2014 (PDF)

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Pre-K makes a difference

January 8, 2014 / Local Data / 0 Comments /

All test scores improve after one year for Pre-K.
Children with multiple family risk factors show the greatest improvement in scores after one year of Pre-K.

Source: Shahin Samiei, M. Sell & D. Imig. 2012. “Analysis of Pre-Kindergarten PPV-T scores by Family Risk Factors.”

Factors impacting reading readiness

January 8, 2014 / Local Data / 0 Comments /

Early childhood differences influence reading readiness…
Memphis, TN, 2012

Source: Shahin Samiei, M. Sell, A. Bush & D. Imig. 2012. “Evaluating the relationship between the Imagination Library early childhood literacy program and kindergarten readiness.”