Nurturing Parenting Program: Pre-Kindergarten Pilot Implementation

April 2, 2015 / Briefs 2015 / 0 Comments /

The Nurturing Parenting (NP) pilot project is an effort to evaluate the incorporation of intentional positive parenting information in selected Shelby County Schools (SCS) Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) classrooms. This program is designed to instill positive, nurturing child-rearing attitudes, beliefs, and practices among parents.

Read more in our mid-year report.

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Download mid-year report (PDF, 2015-Mar)


Accountability for student performance goes well beyond teachers and schools

January 7, 2015 / Briefs 2015 / 0 Comments /

Ensuring that our community’s children have high-quality teachers and schools is absolutely critical to student success. However, children are not just products of their schools, but also of their families and communities.

We know that children from impoverished backgrounds are at risk for poor school performance. From early childhood through adolescence, this performance gap only grows wider as children progress through school. Teachers and schools are left battling the headwinds of poor out-of-school developmental and educational support for their students as this performance gap continually widens. Children from poverty often do not have the same family or community support that many middle-income children have.

Therefore, policies to improve educational (as well as health) outcomes must also address family and community factors. High quality pre-kindergarten is vitally important for young children, especially those from at-risk backgrounds. However, when high quality pre-kindergarten is combined with strong home and community “wrap-around” services, the benefits are only magnified. Organizations that advocate for a holistic civic infrastructure that supports children from cradle-to-career understand how important family and community are to children’s success in school, career, and life.

Research shows us that success builds upon success. However, we can’t expect schools to “go it alone.” To foster success among our children, we must hold ourselves, our families, and our communities as accountable as we hold our teachers and schools.

Read more in our full brief.

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Download Research Brief (PDF, 2015-Jan)


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.

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Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-05)


Social-Emotional Development in Pre-kindergarteners and Kindergarteners

December 5, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

The Pathways to Success Partnership recently joined with PeopleFirst and the Early Success Coalition to look at the influence of social and emotional development on school readiness. Positive early childhood development is both a characteristic and foundation of healthy families and healthy communities. When young children grow up with positive early experiences, healthy families, and nurturing homes and environments, they are set upon a positive trajectory for healthy development and a healthy life course. Positive early development serves as a predictor of later measures of success.

For these reasons, learning more about the constellation of factors involved in early socio-emotional development is an important policy matter for families with young children, for schools and school districts, and for our community at large.

In the fall of 2014, the study group asked parents of children registering for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten at six schools in Shelby County to complete a one-page questionnaire about their children’s behaviors. The questions centered on behaviors regarding three sub-scales of socio-emotional development:

  • attachment
  • initiative, and
  • self-control.
Our findings help illustrate how young students entering school are fairing in terms of socio-emotional development in Shelby County.

Read more in our full brief.

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Download Research Brief (PDF, 2014-04)

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


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.

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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


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


Literacy in Memphis and Shelby County: Some groups of low-income students are doing much better than others.

February 25, 2014 / Briefs 2014 / 0 Comments /

Literacy is context specific.
Literacy is necessary for college and career readiness and success.
Many Shelby County Schools (SCS) students are not college ready in reading.
Low-income youth are less likely to be proficient in reading.
Some groups of low-income students are doing much better than others.
Young adults’ literacy levels reflect early learning, school environments, and family and community factors.
Stronger, individual-level measures of literacy level need to be part of any literacy intervention.

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Download Brief 03/2014 (PDF)

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


Pre-K makes a difference

January 8, 2014 / Local Data / 0 Comments /
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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.”