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Program Profile: Kids in Transition to School (KITS)

Evidence Rating: Promising - More than one study Promising - More than one study

Date: This profile was posted on September 08, 2015

Program Summary

This is a short-term intervention program designed to assess children in transition to kindergarten. The goal of the program is to increase school-readiness and to develop early literacy and social and self-regulation skills. The program is rated Promising. The intervention group displayed significantly lower levels of oppositional and aggressive behavior as well as significantly higher levels of self-regulation.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
Kids in Transition to School (KITS) is a short–term intervention designed to assess early literacy and social and self-regulation skills focused on school-readiness. The KITS intervention is delivered to children entering kindergarten who are at high risk for difficulties in academic and social adjustment. The intervention is delivered during the summer before students’ transition to kindergarten, specifically the 2 months prior to entering kindergarten, and the first 2 months of kindergarten.

KITS focuses on early literacy skills, prosocial skills, and self-regulatory skills. The intervention is a 24-week-long, group-based school curriculum for children and their parents/caregivers.

Program Activities
The intervention occurs in two phases.

School-readiness Phase: occurs during the 2 months prior to entering kindergarten. The main focus of this phase is to prepare the children for school. Children attend a 16-session, school-readiness group for 2 hours twice a week. The school- readiness sessions are taught by a graduate-level teacher and two assistant teachers to groups of 12–15 children. The school-readiness curriculum covers early literacy skills, essential social skills, and self-regulation skills. Literacy activities include a letter of the day, a poem of the week, and story book and dramatic activities. Prosocial and regulatory skills are taught using a blend of instruction, role playing, and activity-based intervention. Children receive feedback and guided practice.

Parents/caregivers meet for 2 hours every 2 weeks for 4 sessions. The parent/caregiver group sessions coincide with the children’s sessions and are led by a facilitator and assistant. The facilitator presents information, leads group discussions, facilitates parent-to-parent support, and addresses questions and concerns. The curriculum focuses on skills relevant to kindergarten transition, including early literacy and the promotion of child-regulation behavior. Parents who miss a session will receive a home visit from the facilitator to cover the materials.

Both the caregivers and children receive supplemental materials to support the implementation of new skills, including weekly school-readiness homework assignments, weekly newsletters outlining the group topics for a given week, and home practice activities.

Transition/Maintenance Phase: occurs in the first 2 months of school. The children meet for 2 hours once a week in playgroups for eight sessions. The parents/caregivers continue to meet twice a month for four sessions. This focus of this phase is supporting a positive transition to school for the children.

Skills are taught using a blend of instruction, role playing, and activity-based intervention strategies (i.e., children sharing materials to complete an art project). The children receive feedback, encouragement, and guided practice in using the target skills.

Facilitators complete a 35-to 40-hour training program and discuss the progress of the groups at weekly intervention team meetings.

Program Theory
The intervention is based on the rationale that effective interventions must be “developmentally timed,” occurring at critical points in transition to school (Pianta and Cox 1999). This is an optimal time for addressing needs and intervening; during this time children are in the process of reorganizing their competencies and are particularly open to influence. 

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Oppositional and Aggressive Behavior
Pears and colleagues (2012) assessed child behavior and found that children who received the Kids in Transition to School (KITS) intervention displayed significantly lower levels of oppositional and aggressive behavior by the end of the intervention compared with the FCC group.

Study 2
Self-Regulation in School
Pears and colleagues (2015) found that students who received the KITS intervention demonstrated a small but significant increase in self-regulation when compared with the FCC group. 
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Pears and colleagues (2012) used a randomized trial to evaluate the effect of the Kids in Transition to School (KITS) program on children in foster care. To participate, children had to be in nonkinship or kinship foster care, entering kindergarten in the fall, English speaking, and not involved in another type of treatment related to the KITS intervention. Children participated with their caregivers. A project staff person contacted the caseworker for the child, and then the caregiver to invite them to participate. Consent for child participation was required from both the case worker and caregiver. Families (N=192) were randomized to either the KITS intervention group (N=102) or the foster care comparison (FCC) group (N=90). There were no statistically significant differences between groups at baseline.

The KITS intervention consisted of two components. Children participated in a 24-session, school-readiness group that met 2 hours twice a week in the 2 months before kindergarten and 2 hours once a week in the first 2 months of kindergarten. Caregivers participated in an 8-session group that met for 2 hours every 2 weeks.
Attendance and implementation fidelity were documented by trained coders.

The children in the FCC group received the services commonly offered to children by the welfare system. Services included child psychotherapy, participation in Head Start or another early childhood education program, and early intervention services such as speech therapy.

Children and caregivers participated in center-based assessments, standardized testing, questionnaires, and structured interviews prior to the intervention (T1); after the summer intervention (T2); and at the end of each kindergarten year (T4). Teacher interviews and observations of the children were conducted during the fall (T3) and at the end of the kindergarten year (T4). Children’s oppositional and aggressive behaviors in school were measured using the Teacher Report Form. The Conner’s Teacher Ratings Scales-Revised: Short Version was also used in measuring oppositional behavior. Baseline behavior was measured before the intervention using the Child Behavior Checklist/4-16 and was completed by the caregiver. The data was analyzed using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) in Mplus.
Study 2
Pears and colleagues (2015) conducted a randomized controlled trial of the KITS intervention program with children who were receiving early childhood special education (ECSE). For participation, children had to be transitioning to kindergarten, have a documented developmental disability that made them eligible to receive ECSE services, and display behavioral or social difficulties. Children were excluded if they had hearing or vision impairments, an IQ below 70, if they were in foster care, or if they already received full-time ECSE services in the summer. Of the 209 eligible families, 107 were randomized into the KITS intervention group and 102 into the services-as-usual group. There were no significant differences between the groups at baseline.

Data was collected at multiple intervals. A 1- to 1.5-hour assessment was completed by both children and parents at the beginning of the summer before the intervention (T1), again at the end of the summer intervention and before school (T2), and again at the end of the kindergarten year (T4). The parents completed interviews and questionnaires while the children completed standardized tests. Teachers also completed questionnaires on the children’s behavior and the parents’ involvement in school. Children’s behavior was observed during 15 minutes of structured and unstructured time on 2 different days separated by a week.

The intervention was delivered in the 2 months prior to kindergarten, which is considered the school-readiness phase, and during the first 2 months of kindergarten, known as the transition/maintenance phase. Children attended 16 two-hour sessions twice a week in the first 2 months, and eight 2-hour sessions once a week in the next 2 months. Parents/caregivers attended four sessions in each intervention phase. The intervention sessions were delivered in center or school classrooms with a routine similar to a kindergarten class. Children in the services- as-usual control group received the services typically offered to children who are identified as having developmental disabilities.
Self-regulation before the intervention and after the school-readiness phase was measured using the Child Behavior Checklist, Emotion Regulation Checklist, and the Emotion Control subscale of the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Preschool Parent Report. Self-regulation at the end of kindergarten was measured using a composite of the Social Competence Scale, completed by observers, and the Self Control subscale of the Social Skills Rating System-Teacher Form and the Emotion Regulation scale, completed by teachers.
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For information on the costs, please visit the Kids in Transition to School (KITS) Web site:
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Implementation Information

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The Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC) provides technical assistance for schools, community agencies, and child welfare systems looking to get the Kids in Transition to School (KITS) program up and running through a four-part strategy that involves readiness, training, coaching, and certification. For implementation information please visit the KITS Web site:  

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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Pears, Katherine C., Hyoun Kim, and Philip Fisher.  2012.  “Effects of a School-readiness Intervention for Children in Foster Care on Oppositional and Aggressive Behaviors in Kindergarten.” Children and Youth Services Review 34:2361–66.

Study 2
Pears, Katherine C., Hyoun Kim, Cynthia Healey, Karen Yoerger, and Philip Fisher. 2015.  “Improving Child Self-Regulation and Parenting in Families of Pre-Kindergarten Children with Developmental Disabilities and Behavioral Difficulties.” Prevention Science 16:222–32.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Pears, Katherine C., Philip Fisher, Hyoun Kim, Jacqueline Bruce, Cynthia Healey, and Karen Yoerger. 2013. “Immediate Effects of a School-readiness Intervention for Children in Foster Care.” Early Education and Development 24(6):771–91.

Pianta, R.C., and Cox, M.J. 1999. “The Transition to Kindergarten.” Baltimore, Md.: Paul H. Brookes.

Pears, Katherine C., Cynthia V. Healey, Philip A. Fisher, Drew Braun, Colt Gill, Holly Mar Conte, Judy Newman, and Sara Ticer. 2014. “Immediate Effects of a Program to Promote School Readiness in Low-Income Children: Results of a Pilot Study.” Education and Treatment of Children 37(3):431–60.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Universal School-Based Prevention and Intervention Programs for Aggressive and Disruptive Behavior
Universal school-based prevention and intervention programs for aggressive and disruptive behavior target elementary, middle, and high school students in a universal setting, rather than focusing on only a selective group of students, with the intention of preventing or reducing violent, aggressive, or disruptive behaviors. The practice is rated Effective in reducing violent, aggressive, and/or disruptive behaviors in students.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors
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Program Snapshot

Age: 4 - 6

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, American Indians/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Classroom Curricula, Family Therapy, Leadership and Youth Development, Parent Training, School/Classroom Environment, Wraparound/Case Management

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Developer:
Katherine Pears
Senior Research Scientist
Oregon Social Learning Center
10 Shelton McMurphy Blvd
Eugene OR 97401
Phone: 541-485-2711
Fax: 541-485-7087

Phillip Fisher
Chair, Professor of Psychology and Director of Clinical Training
Center for Translational Neuroscience
1227 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403
Phone: 541-346-4968