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A predictor of school success: grade-level reading by the end of third grade

Executive function research at Oregon State University

Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, and managing time and space. Dr. Megan McClelland of the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children & Families at Oregon State University is becoming recognized as an international expert on the development of executive function in early childhood, particularly self-regulation. Her recent publication showing a strong correlation between executive function skills and later school success is making headlines. In response to her findings about self-regulation and success in school, Dr. McClelland and colleagues also designed (and are piloting) an intervention to help improve executive function skills in disadvantaged preschoolers. The Ford Family Foundation helped fund a portion of the intervention study; initial findings are very promising.


The Family Check-Up early childhood intervention is based on a brief, three-session process. The process uses motivational interviewing techniques and focuses on the family's reported needs and areas of concern. The intervention has shown positive impacts on positive parenting behaviors, decreases in challenging behaviors of young children, and increases in school readiness.  

Family Check-Up is on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, Administration for Child and Families' list for Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness. This means that it has been determined by the federal government to be an evidence-based practice that has positive impacts on either parenting behaviors or early childhood development. 

Grade-level Reading

Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families enter school ready, succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. The Campaign focuses on the most important predictor of school success and high school graduation: grade-level reading by the end of third grade. This project is of particular interest to the Foundation because one of the three most important ways to impact reading at third grade is through kindergarten-readiness efforts. The other approaches are linked with school attendance, and summer learning loss. 

Oregon  has three communities participating in the Campaign: Multnomah County, Eugene and Wallowa County. The Wallowa County effort is one of the few rural/frontier communities participating in the national network with leadership from Building Healthy Families

Kids in Transition to School 

Kids In Transition to School is a school-readiness program that includes learning opportunities for children and parents. The program begins eight weeks prior to kindergarten entry and follows the children and parents eight weeks into the school year. Children learn important early literacy and social skills in a classroom setting; parents learn how to support their child’s education during sessions with professional parent educators. The program is developed and run by Oregon Social Learning Center in two Promise Neighborhoods in Eugene and one site in Cottage Grove. 

Oregon Pediatric Society 

The Oregon Pediatric Society has two evidence-based programs that are gaining momentum around the state:

The Screening Tools and Referral Training project teaches pediatric primary care providers how to detect and manage young children’s developmental and behavioral health issues as well as maternal depression problems. Identifying problems early and linking families to appropriate services can improve the health of Oregon’s children.  The goals of the program are to:

  • Increase standardized health screening so doctors can identify children and families who need services earlier
  • Increase awareness of community resources to help children and families get the healthcare services they need
  • Enhance care coordination and communication so that children and families receive appropriate and effective healthcare services.

The Reach Out and Read project helps prepare  young children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to "prescribe" books and encourage families to read together. The goal of the program is to improve language and literacy skills that lead to school success by encouraging parents to read high-quality books with their children starting in infancy. There are three main aspects to the program:

  • Doctors, nurse practitioners, and other pediatric practitioners give books to children 6 months through 5 years old at their regular, well-child checkups
  • Doctors give advice to parents about reading aloud with their children and the development of early literacy skills
  • Waiting rooms are literacy-rich, with reading material for children, information for parents, and volunteer readers who model read-aloud techniques to parents.

Parenting Now!

Parenting Now!, formerly Birth To Three, is a private non-profit organization that provides parenting education and support to families with young children. The organization bring parents together to increase their knowledge of early childhood development, build a supportive network with other parents, and learn about community resources. Parenting Now! is based in Eugene, Oregon, and has many years of experience. Its parenting education curricula includes: Make Parenting a Pleasure (Haga la paternidad un placer), First Three Years, and Parenting Now. 

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