Winthrop University’s Psychology department aids Rock Hill’s school district in evaluating its pre-kindergarten programs

A class of Winthrop’s school psychology graduate students were recently recognized for their assistance in evaluating the Rock Hill school district’s early childhood education initiatives.

In Fall 2013, graduate students enrolled in Matt Hayes’ Psychology Statistics class collaborated with the Rock Hill school district in a study to determine the effectiveness of their pre-kindergarten programs. The programs are available for children who meet multiple at-risk factors, including poverty, non-English speaking homes and single parent homes. Previously, Hayes and Joe Prus, the chair of the Department of Psychology, approached the district with the idea of partnering on a research or evaluation project.

“Advanced statistics is very challenging,” Prus said. “Our department’s partnership with the Rock Hill school district helped the district bring added resources to an important effort, while at the same time providing our students with a meaningful way to apply what they learned.”

The graduate students analyzed the test scores of 4,389 elementary school students, finding that third graders who participated in the pre-kindergarten programs tested significantly higher in reading than those who had not received any early education training. The project gave Hayes’ students a chance to apply what they had learned to a real world situation, which is essential for students who are interested in pursuing a psychological career.

“Studies like this provide in-depth, objective evaluation, giving school district administrators good data that will enable them to make decisions informed by the facts,” said Matt Hayes, assistant professor of psychology.

According to Rock Hill school officials, the graduate students devoted more time and resources to analyze the results and view their findings from an objective point of view. Harriet Jaworowski, associate superintendent for instruction and accountability, mentioned that the project “provided a baseline for additional evaluation of early education programs.” She was impressed by the students’ thoroughness and professionalism in their evaluation and analysis. “We look forward to future opportunities that benefit both organizations and, ultimately, the educational community,” Jaworowski said. The students’ analysis will be used in the future as a template for annual monitoring of the program. The results of the study will also be presented to the Rock Hill school board at a future meeting.

Winthrop University offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education, instructed by faculty member Julie Durham. Students interested in the major will also benefit from the South Carolina Early Childhood Association, gaining hands-on experience in local schools as well.

Deborah Crocker

Deborah is a former Science & Tech Editor for The Johnsonian. She graduated from Winthrop University in Spring 2015.

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