MEP Receives New Grant to Assess, Improve 4K Instruction in Madison

July 27, 2018

A joint research practice partnership between UW-Madison and the Madison Metropolitan School District has received a $400,000 federal grant for a two-year study to assess and improve instruction in the district’s 4-year-old kindergarten program. Teaching is to be enhanced with the design and piloting of a made-to-order professional development program built around the needs of the district’s 4K educators.

The project, to start in September, will examine a sample of 20 classrooms and 30 teachers in the 4K program, including both school-based sites and community locations that work under contract with the district in the program. The funding is from the Institute for Education Sciences, the major grant-making arm of the U.S. Dept. of Education.

Leading the project will be Eric Grodsky Beth Graue and Katie Eklund from the School of Education’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research  and Culleen Witthuhn and Beth Vaade from the school district, working together in a research collaborative known as the Madison Education Partnership (MEP). Formed in 2016, researchers working with MEP have already explored 4K issues related to educational equity, family engagement, interpersonal skills development and support for homeless families.

“The team will enrich its understanding of challenges in 4K education, develop approaches to addressing those challenges and enhance equality of educational opportunity,” according to the IES grant award announcement for the new project.

Over the two years of the study, the partners will observe classrooms to assess the quality of instruction and instructional environments, while developing an understanding of teachers’ current level of professional development and training needs through teacher focus groups. From that, a report outlining opportunities for training will be produced, followed by the design and piloting of a training program to meet the needs.

The partnership will produce executive summaries for district administrators, practitioners and community organizations including key findings and policy recommendations. Study results also will be shared in public presentations and discussions with policymakers and researchers, and through conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications for the broader educational research community.