Background: School readiness, conceptualized as three components including emotional self-regulation, social competence, and family/school involvement, as well as absence of conduct problems play a key role in young children's future interpersonal adjustment and academic success. Unfortunately, exposure to multiple poverty-related risks increases the odds that children will demonstrate increased emotional dysregulation, fewer social skills, less teacher/parent involvement and more conduct problems. Consequently intervention offered to socio-economically disadvantaged populations that includes a social and emotional school curriculum and trains teachers in effective classroom management skills and in promotion of parent–school involvement would seem to be a strategic strategy for improving young children's school readiness, leading to later academic success and prevention of the development of conduct disorders.
Methods: This randomized trial evaluated the Incredible Years (IY) Teacher Classroom Management and Child Social and Emotion curriculum (Dinosaur School) as a universal prevention program for children enrolled in Head Start, kindergarten, or first grade classrooms in schools selected because of high rates of poverty. Trained teachers offered the Dinosaur School curriculum to all their students in bi-weekly lessons throughout the year. They sent home weekly dinosaur homework to encourage parents’ involvement. Part of the curriculum involved promotion of lesson objectives through the teachers’ continual use of positive classroom management skills focused on building social competence and emotional self-regulation skills as well as decreasing conduct problems. Matched pairs of schools were randomly assigned to intervention or control conditions.
Results: Results from multi-level models on a total of 153 teachers and 1,768 students are presented. Children and teachers were observed in the classrooms by blinded observers at the beginning and the end of the school year. Results indicated that intervention teachers used more positive classroom management strategies and their students showed more social competence and emotional self-regulation and fewer conduct problems than control teachers and students. Intervention teachers reported more involvement with parents than control teachers. Satisfaction with the program was very high regardless of grade levels.
Conclusions: These findings provide support for the efficacy of this universal preventive curriculum for enhancing school protective factors and reducing child and classroom risk factors faced by socio-economically disadvantaged children.