RESEARCH

MEP both engages in and supports research

MEP-Directed Research

The Steering Committee and Advisory Groups guide the topical focus of MEP-Directed research annually. The research agenda is designed and carried out by MEP Directors, staff, and student researchers. Throughout the year, MEP Directed research engages in a series of related and thematically aligned research questions. This structure allows for MEP-Directed research to be focused on problems of practice that are pressing for the District and of current interest for the academic community. Research focus areas must be mutually beneficial to the District and University for MEP to engage.

The focus of MEP-directed work from 2016-2018 is MMSD’s four-year-old Kindergarten (4K) program. MEP approaches this research with an equity lens given the widely demonstrated potential for educational interventions prior to Kindergarten to enhance academic success of children who have historically been at greater risk of experiencing academic challenges.

Research questions for 2017- 2018

In 2017-2018 MEP remains topically focused on the District’s 4K program, but delves further into its impacts.

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What are the attendance patterns in MMSD’s early grades?

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What is the relationship, if any, of attendance patterns in 5K to attendance patterns in 3rd grade

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How is attendance associated with student achievement? How does this association vary by child and family attributes?


In 2016-2017 MEP focused on addressing some basic descriptive questions about the District’s 4K program:

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Who participates in MMSD’s 4K program?

Although MMSD provides universal access to a part-day 4K-program, opting-in to enroll is not universal. An important first question is how does participation in 4K differ among different groups of children? Are students’ background and family characteristics associated with patterns of attendance? For example, are children of color or low-income children more or less likely to attend 4K than other children? Does home language predict attendance? Finally, do program elements (such as time of day or type of school) influence enrollment?

Madison Metropolitan School District Four-year-old Kindergarten: Patterns of Enrollment

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How is participation in 4K associated with school readiness? How does this association vary by child and family attributes?

What is the association between 4K participation and the academic and social and behavioral competencies of children entering Kindergarten? How if at all does this association vary by race/ethnicity, parental education or free and reduced-price lunch eligibility? How if at all does this association vary across 4K sites?

MEP-Supported research

MEP Supported research is thematically aligned with MEP Directed research, serving to provide a broader scope of resources and knowledge to the District. In 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 MEP Supported work is topically focused on MMSD’s 4K program. Two cycles of research grants have been awarded to date—the first in Fall of 2016 and the second in Spring of 2017. A third grants cycle will take place in the Spring of 2018. Details of the research questions and designs from each previous grant cohorts are below.

MEP supports independent UW researchers to engage in research in MMSD through research grants, awarded through a competitive grant process. . Calls for proposals are issued annually in Spring semester. All University faculty, research faculty, and graduate students supported by a PI are invited to submit a proposal for funding. Grant awards are up to $50,00 and researchers are further supported through MEP with expedited access to MMSD data and schools and additional administrative support through MEP. Applications are reviewed by the MEP Directors and Steering Committee. Two cycles of the grant competition cycle have taken place to date—the first in Fall of 2016 and the second cycle in Spring 2017. Funds for MEP research grants are available through the generous support of WCER.

Apply for a MEP Grant

Spring 2017 Awarded Researchers

Dr. Graue will analyze MMSD administrative data, survey and interview kindergarten families, in an effort to understand how families make decisions about their child’s 4K experience.  Across these retrospective data sources Graue will explore factors that shape decision making with a focus on program structures, family needs and resources, cultural norms, and personal preference.

Dr. Gettinger and Kaitlyn Ostrander will use a mixed methods approach to: 1) assess the overall quality of instruction in MMSD 4K classrooms and 2) descriptively summarize the beliefs and perspectives of 4K teachers regarding 4K programming. They will also explore any variance between sites, teacher characteristics, and student demographics.    

Fall 2016 Awarded Researchers

Dr. Pilarz will document 4K family engagement strategies and parents’ perceptions of those strategies, through the administration of surveys to 4K principals/directors and teachers, and focus groups with parents. She will explore the relationship between engagement strategies and 4K students’ attendance and school readiness. The goal of her research is to identify the most promising strategies to increase family engagement in 4K and improve student readiness for the transition to Kindergarten.

Dr. Wright will conduct classroom observations, interviews, and focus groups with 4K staff and families in order to expand our understanding of the experiences of homeless families in 4K. Through his research he aims to identify the best strategies to improve support for students experiencing homelessness during the first critical years of school.

Drs. Shutts and Kalish will conduct interviews with 4K administrators and teachers to identify priorities and interests for assessing students' interpersonal skills. They will also be pilot testing assessments with students in 4K programs. Utilizing the experiences and expertise of 4K staff, their goal is to develop high-quality measurement instruments which will help teachers effectively assess students' interpersonal skills.