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Enhancing immigrant families' mental health through the promotion of structural and community-based support

Kerker, Bonnie D; Barajas-Gonzalez, R Gabriela; Rojas, Natalia M; Norton, Jennifer M; Brotman, Laurie M
Immigrant communities in the United States are diverse and have many assets. Yet, they often experience stressors that can undermine the mental health of residents. To fully promote mental health and well-being among immigrant communities, it is important to emphasize population-level policies and practices that may serve to mitigate stress and prevent mental health disorders. In this paper, we describe the stressors and stress experienced by immigrant families, using Sunset Park, Brooklyn as an example. We discuss ways to build structures and policies in support of equitable environments that promote mental health at the population level and enable families and their children to thrive.
PMID: 38751580
ISSN: 2296-2565
CID: 5656232

Problem behaviors at the classroom-level and teacher-child interaction quality in Head Start programs: Moderation by age composition

Rojas, Natalia M; Abenavoli, Rachel M
This study explored the link between classroom-level problem behaviors and teacher-child interaction quality in 307 Head Start preschool classrooms. The moderating role of the classroom's age composition (e.g., 3- and 4-year-olds versus 4-year-olds only) also was examined. Using a dataset of 852 3-year-old children and 1114 4-year-old children, classroom-level problem behaviors were operationalized using teacher reports of children's problem behaviors. Results indicated that classroom-level problem behaviors, specifically oppositional/aggressive and internalizing behavior, were associated with lower teacher-child interaction quality (i.e., emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support). In contrast, classroom-level hyperactivity was only negatively related to classroom instructional support. Moderation results indicated that high-levels of classroom-level activity were related to lower-levels of teacher-child interaction quality, but for 4-year-old only classrooms. The results of this study have implications for practice and policy.
PMID: 37507184
ISSN: 1873-3506
CID: 5594192

Early Childhood Education Teacher's Beliefs about a Match in Home Language Proficiency with Emergent Bilingual Learners

Rojas, Natalia M.; Ramos, Susam; Salgado, Aimee
Spanish-speaking emergent bilingual learners (EBLLs) are the fastest-growing group of children under five in the United States. Yet, there is a limited number of early childhood education (ECE) teachers who speak Spanish. This study examines mainstream English-instruction ECE teachers' beliefs about how a language match supports EBLLs' learning and development. Semi-structured interviews with 20 ECE teachers who varied in levels of Spanish-language proficiency were conducted. Qualitative results illustrated that most teachers demonstrated sociolinguistic consciousness regarding their beliefs about the value of using Spanish in the classroom and highlighted important sociopolitical factors that influence their beliefs and practices. The findings indicate several policy and practice implications, such as the need for language policies that encourage the use of Spanish and English in the classroom and pre-service/in-service education on the best practices for supporting EBLLs.
ISSN: 0885-2006
CID: 5393992

Re-imagining Early Childhood Education and School Readiness for Children and Families of Color in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond [Editorial]

Kerker, Bonnie D; Rojas, Natalia M; Dawson-McClure, Spring; Gonzalez, Cristina
High quality and culturally responsive early childhood education and care (ECEC) for young children before kindergarten is seen as a way to ensure that all children enter school ready to learn. ECEC is even more crucial in the context of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the disproportionate burden of trauma and stress borne by families of color in disinvested neighborhoods. Remote learning and repeated disruptions to in-person instruction as protocols shifted during waves of the pandemic placed an extra strain on families, and may have increased educational disparities in the U.S. Taken together, these challenges have implications for children's school readiness due to their impact on opportunities for learning at home and in the classroom. This paper explores how ECEC programs can be strengthened to better meet children's needs, and ways in which future research can shed light on these important issues.
PMID: 36646660
ISSN: 2168-6602
CID: 5410632

Preschool children's engagement and school readiness skills: Exploring differences between Spanish-speaking dual language learners and monolingual English-speaking preschoolers

Rojas, Natalia M; Yoshikawa, Hirokazu; Morris, Pamela
Research Findings: The study examined the relationship between Spanish-speaking DLL children's engagement within the preschool classroom with teachers, peers, and tasks and their school readiness skills compared to monolingual English-speaking peers. Results suggested that DLL children had lower language skills and phonological awareness by the end of the preschool year. However, children's positive engagement with teachers mediated the relationship between DLL status and children's language skills. Finally, the relationship between children's engagement and school readiness outcomes differed by whether children are DLL or monolingual; for DLL children, positively engaging with teachers, peers, and tasks were positively associated with their receptive and expressive vocabulary, phonological awareness, and print knowledge skills. Practice or Policy: The findings highlight how children's classroom engagement, particularly DLLs, is associated with their school readiness outcomes. That is, DLL and monolingual children are experiencing different levels of engagement expose potential inequities in the levels of quality experienced within classrooms. Classrooms must maximize the opportunities for DLLs to practice their language skills with peers, in particular, across languages as a way of supporting their development. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)
ISSN: 1556-6935
CID: 5436252

Supporting immigrant caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic: Continuous adaptation and implementation of an early childhood digital engagement program

Rojas, Natalia M; Katter, Julie; Tian, Ran; Montesdeoca, Jacqueline; Caycedo, Camila; Kerker, Bonnie D
Digital messaging programs have the potential to be a powerful, low-cost, technological tool to support multiple facets of caregivers' knowledge, and implementation of developmentally appropriate caregiver-child activities among diverse immigrant populations. However, involving caregivers and community stakeholders in the cultural and linguistic tailoring of interventions to optimize utilization and engagement may be critical to ensuring messaging programs' usability and acceptability. The purpose of this mixed-method study was to use the dynamic adaptation process (DAP) within an Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, Sustainment (EPIS) framework to examine the implementation of a digital messaging program, developed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, aimed at providing Spanish-, English-, and Mandarin-speaking immigrant caregivers with caregiver-child activities that supported children's development and caregivers' knowledge. Building upon the EPIS framework, using DAP, we assessed the feasibility and acceptability of a messaging program via short message service or multimedia message service, WeChat, and Remind and webinar program during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study illustrated how a digital messaging program is a feasible mechanism for sharing developmentally and culturally appropriate information with immigrant caregivers. In addition, the use of the DAP and the EPIS framework allowed us to continuously track the process of cultural adaptation, identify barriers and facilitators of the outreach program, and examine how implementation unfolded across all three groups of caregivers.
PMID: 35901459
ISSN: 1573-2770
CID: 5276802

Silent Expectations: An exploration of women pre-Kindergarten teachers' mental health and wellness during Covid-19 and beyond

Rodriguez, Vanessa; Rojas, Natalia M; Rabadi-Raol, Ayesha; Souto-Manning, Mariana V; Brotman, Laurie M
PMID: 34955598
ISSN: 0885-2006
CID: 5107992

Embedding causal research designs in pre-K systems at scale

Abenavoli, Rachel; Rojas, Natalia; Unterman, Rebecca; Cappella, Elise; Wallack, Josh; Morris, Pamela
In this article, Rachel Abenavoli, Natalia Rojas, Rebecca Unterman, Elise Cappella, Josh Wallack, and Pamela Morris argue that research-practice partnerships make it possible to rigorously study relevant policy questions in ways that would otherwise be infeasible. Randomized controlled trials of small-scale programs have shown us that early childhood interventions can yield sizable benefits. But when we move from relatively small, tightly controlled studies to scaled-up initiatives, the results are often disappointing. Here the authors describe how their partnership with New York City"™s Department of Education, as the city rapidly rolled out its universal pre-K initiative, gave them opportunities to collect experimental and quasi-experimental evidence while placing a minimal burden on educators. They argue that this type of research can answer the most pressing ECE questions, which are less about whether ECE can make a difference and more about the conditions under which early interventions are effective at scale. They offer three recommendations for researchers, policy makers, and practitioners who are considering partnership work: build a foundation of trust and openness; carefully consider whether rigorous causal research or descriptive research is the right choice in a given situation; and be flexible, seeking opportunities for rigorous research designs that may already be embedded in early childhood education systems.
ISSN: 1054-8289
CID: 5000582

Measuring Preschool Teachers"™ Social-emotional Practices: A Comparison of Two Measures

Rojas, Natalia M.; Mattera, Shira; Morris, Pamela; Raver, Cybele
Research Findings: Evidence suggests that teachers are effective at improving the social and emotional readiness of low-income children. However, few measures are available to assess teachers"™ use of specific social-emotional practices within their classrooms. This paper compares an observational measure of teachers"™ social-emotional practices, the Adapted Teacher Style Rating Scale (TSRS), to an instrument of general classroom climate within a randomized control trial, including 307 Head Start classrooms across the country. Results confirmed the expected underlying three-factor structure of the Adapted-TSRS across mixed-age and 4-year-old only Head Start classrooms. The measure was found to have good internal consistency, reliability, and acceptable concurrent correlations with other previously validated observational measures of classroom climate. Policy or Practice: The results support the usefulness and added value of a more specific observational measure of teachers"™ social-emotional practices.
ISSN: 1040-9289
CID: 4769692

Promoting EF With Preschool Interventions: Lessons Learned From 15 Years of Conducting Large-Scale Studies

Mattera, Shira; Rojas, Natalia M; Morris, Pamela A; Bierman, Karen
In the past two decades, a growing number of early childhood interventions that aim to improve school readiness have also targeted children's executive function (EF), building on the theory that promoting EF skills in preschool may play a key role in reducing the substantial gaps in school readiness and later achievement associated with family income. Despite the expansion of school readiness interventions across preschool, research evidence is mixed regarding what works to promote EF development and the impact of these interventions on children's EF skills, and subsequently, their academic and behavioral outcomes. This paper reviews four intervention approaches designed to support school readiness that may also improve children's EF skills by: (a) encouraging adaptive classroom behaviors, (b) improving social-emotional learning, (c) promoting play and direct training of EF skills, and (d) improving cognitive skills related to EF. We describe program effects from rigorous trials testing these approaches, including summarizing the takeaways from four large-scale intervention research studies conducted by the authors, involving over 5,000 children. We conclude by exploring open questions for the field and future directions for research and intervention program development and refinement.
PMID: 34248742
ISSN: 1664-1078
CID: 4965772