Current Research Projects

Current Research Projects | Completed Research Projects

Research Projects
Professor Deborah L. Vandell
School of Education, University of California, Irvine

 Current Research Projects

1) Afterschool Outcome Measures Online Toolbox

  • Pilot and Field Test funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation
  • Contract with the Afterschool Division of the California Department of Education to administer Online Toolbox at publicly funded sites across the state of California (2013-2015)
  • Available for any out-of-school program for a service fee. Currently used in California, Utah, Maryland, and Missouri.

The Online Toolbox is designed to assess program quality and students’ skill development and positive behavior using scales with well-established reliability and validity. Three types of surveys are available: student self-reports, program staff reports, and classroom teacher reports. Students report the quality of their program experiences with staff, peers, and activities. Participating programs select the types of reports they are interested in receiving.  Field and pilot tests, involving thousands of students in grades 3 to 12, have determined that the Online Toolbox is easy to use and requires only a few minutes to complete. Subsequently, the Online Toolbox has been used by over 1,000 afterschool program sites in California and many programs nationwide. Programs have the option of receiving results of student outcomes over the years, have results analyzed including attendance data, and otherwise customize their report.

Click here for more information.

2) Summer Learning Outcome Measures Project

  • Funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (2011-2015)
  • Available for any summer program for a service fee

The Summer Learning Outcome Measures Toolbox was adapted from the Afterschool Outcome Measures Online Toolbox for use by Summer Learning programs. A 2011 pilot study and a 2012 field test of the measures—carried out with a total of seven programs in the Packard Summer Learning Community project in California and three grantees of the National Summer Learning Association—indicate that the Online Toolbox is a viable option for summer learning programs as a means of measuring outcomes to serve their evaluation needs. Pre-post student and staff surveys administered at the beginning and at the end of the summer programs measure changes in students’ skill development and positive behavior change and report the quality of their program experiences. Year-round programs have the option of receiving results of student outcomes linked to the school year.

Click here for more information.

3) Development of Training Materials for the Promising Practices Rating System

  • Funded by the William T. Grant Foundation

The goal of this project is to develop a training program for the Promising Practices Rating System (PPRS), an observational measure of process quality in after-school programs. The training program allows broader use of the PPRS for research and program development purposes. We collected videos in afterschool programs representing a range of quality. We use the videos to prepare an online, video-based training program that includes training videos that illustrate key concepts and provide rating practice, certification and drift videos to ensure observer reliability, and written materials to complement the videos.

Click here for documentation; here for more information.

4) Child-Policy Fit in Experimental Early Childhood Interventions

  • Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) 2011-2016

This ongoing research project is part of a collaborative P01 award titled Human Capital Interventions across Childhood and Adolescence and focuses on early childhood programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start. It employs both stage/policy- and child/policy-fit perspectives and largely experimental data to derive and test hypotheses about which combinations of child, family, and child care program characteristics lead to larger child care treatment effects on cognitive and behavioral outcomes for young children. Specifically, the compensatory hypothesis holds that high-quality child care benefits environmentally disadvantaged children; the skill begets skill hypothesis posits the opposite – that the most skilled children profit the most from high-quality education-oriented investments; the protective hypothesis argues that supportive family factors protect at-risk children from the negative effects of low-quality care; and the differential susceptibility hypothesis holds that children with fragile temperaments are at once hurt the most by low-quality care and helped the most by high-quality care. These hypotheses are tested using four experimental and one quasi-experimental intervention projects.

Click here for more information and the study’s website.

5) Postdoctoral Training Program on Human Capital Interventions in Development

  • Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), 2012-2017
  • Four total fellowships, each lasting two years.
  • Five mentors.

This training grant allows postdoctoral fellows to work with and learn from the research faculty of the Irvine Network on Interventions in Development, a research group created for the P01 award Human Capital Interventions across Childhood and Adolescence (see#4 above)

Click here for more information and the study’s website.

Completed Research Projects

1) STEM in Out-of-School Time

  • Funded by the Samueli Foundation, Bechtel Foundation, and CDE Foundation

The Power of Discovery: STEM2 Initiative is an ambitious, comprehensive project that seeks to promote young people’s engagement, interest, and understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subject matter by capitalizing on the opportunities for high quality STEM learning experiences that could be afforded by out-of-school time (OST) programs. The Initiative seeks to increase the capacity of OST programs in California to offer rich, hands-on learning opportunities in the STEM domain. The University of California, Irvine, Vandell research group served as an external evaluator 2011-2015.

Click here for more information.

2) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development

  • Phases I-IV funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
  • Phase V funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

The Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) is a multi-site, prospective, longitudinal study that has followed a national sample of 1,364 children and their families since the children’s birth in 1991. The study has been guided since its inception by an ecological model in which children’s experiences in family, childcare, school, afterschool, peer, neighborhood, and other contexts are examined in relation to child and adolescent developmental outcomes. The SECCYD is the most comprehensive study conducted to date of children and the many contexts in which they develop.

Click here for more information on this completed research project.

3) Tiger Woods Learning Center: Ongoing Evaluation Partnership

  • Phase 1 funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
  • Phase 2 and 3 funded by the Tiger Woods Foundation

This project evaluates a community-learning center in Southern California. The center provides an interactive, technology-enhanced and asset-rich learning environment that supports youth for success in school and on to higher education and a career path. During Study 1, a day program served students in Grades 5 and 6, and an after-school program served students in Grades 7-12. The ongoing evaluation had two purposes: (1) to document program implementation, experiences of center participants, and reasons for retention and attrition, and (2) to assess youth developmental outcomes in relation to participation in center activities. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used to obtain evaluation data, including extensive observations of program activities; interviews and surveys of youth, parents, center staff, and teachers; and the collection and analysis of student-produced work, program documents, and curriculum materials. In-depth case studies provided detailed portraits of select students.

Click here for more information on this completed research project.

4) Study of Promising After-School Programs

  • Funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

The Study of Promising After-School Programs was conducted by research teams at the University of California, Irvine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Policy Studies Associates, Inc. The purpose of the study was to determine the short-term and long-term effects associated with high-quality after-school programs on the cognitive, academic, and socioemotional development of children and adolescents in high-poverty communities. The participating after-school programs were selected following a national search for high-quality programs serving low-income students. The programs were located in 14 cities in 8 states and included 35 programs serving elementary and middle school youth. 

A total of 2,914 students, some of whom attended the selected programs and some who did not, participated in the study.

A Follow-Up Study examined long-term effects associated with program participation of the same students five years later: data collected included achievement test scores, grades, school attendance, work habits, task persistence, misconduct, substance use, school engagement, and expectations for the future.

Click here for more information on this completed research project.

5) High Quality Supplemental Educational Services and Afterschool Partnerships Demonstration Project: An Evaluation of THINK Together Programs in Santa Ana Unified School District.

  • Funded by the U.S. Department of Education

This project was a 3-year evaluation of a blended model of federally funded supplemental educational services (SES) and 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) afterschool programming being implemented in a local school district, in partnership with a community based organization. The model includes both afterschool enrichment activities and an intensive, research-based instructional program aimed at improving student performance in English/language arts and math. Through the collection and analysis of survey data, program attendance data, achievement test scores, program observations, focus groups and individual interviews, the project seeked to identify best practices related to the implementation of the blended model of SES and afterschool programming as well as the effectiveness of the model in recruiting and retaining students to the SES program, and the impact of program participation on student achievement in English/language arts and math.

Click here for more information on this completed research project.

6) Experience Sampling Study: Do After-School Programs Affect Student Experience? An Enhancement Study to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Evaluation

  • Funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Experience sampling allows researchers to collect systematic data about what a person does, thinks and feels during daily life. This methodology measures the participant’s location, activity, and affective and cognitive experiences at random moments. It is particularly valuable for eliciting the subjective experiences of the individual interacting in his or her natural environments. For this study, the research team collected experience sampling data from 8th grade students enrolled in eight schools in three states. Some of the students attended 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs, some attended other after-school programs, and some did not attend any program. The overall goal of the study was to contrast the experiences of youth who attended community learning center and other after-school programs with the experiences of comparison youth who did not attend the programs. Study participants were asked to wear a watch for one week in the fall and one week in the spring. The watch was programmed to randomly signal the student five times each day the watch was worn, during after-school, evening, and weekend hours.

Click here for more information on this completed research project.

For further information and reports of the above projects please visit Dr. Vandell’s website at http://faculty.sites.uci.edu/childcare/