Programs that Work
Father/Male Involvement Preschool Teacher Education Program
Fathers maintaining regular involvement with their children
Age of Child
Early Childhood (0-8)
Type of Setting
Child Care / Preschool
Type of Service
Evidence Level (What does this mean?)
The Father/Male Involvement Preschool Teacher Education Program pilot was designed in 1995 to help teachers increase father/male involvement in state-funded preschool programs for at-risk students. The pilot ran for two full academic years prior to the evaluation. The focus of the Teacher Education Program was to help teachers develop the knowledge and skills needed to successfully plan, implement, and evaluate specific activities that encourage program involvement by fathers and other males who serve as father figures for school children.
Specialists in child development provided teacher training on topics such as staff development; planning and implementing events such as father/child picnics, gym nights, and classroom nights; and developing other outreach initiatives to encourage father/male involvement. The teachers also had the opportunity to participate in individual consultations and group discussion sessions to discuss questions they may have had on a variety of issues, including the appropriateness of involving fathers/males in preschool programs.
Currently, the program's developers are working with the Illinois State Board of Education to implement the program statewide.
Preschool teachers in a state-funded preschool for 3- to 4-year-olds from economically disadvantaged homes participated in the program and study. These students were considered at risk for later school failure based on family income and on other risk indicators such as the students having teenage parents, limited education of their parents, or their living in single-parent households. The target pre-kindergarten program enrolled approximately 300 children. Approximately 60 percent of the participants were African-American, 35 percent were Caucasian, and 5 were percent were from other ethnic groups. The average age of the teachers was 33. The teachers had been in the profession for an average of nine years and had an average of three years of higher education. There were 14 teachers at the treatment site.
The purpose of the evaluation was to answer the question: What is the impact of an indirect intervention program revolving around issues of father/male involvement in early childhood programs designed to provide support services for staff members on the proportion of “parent involvement contacts” and activities that include fathers/men? (McBride, Rane, and Bae, 2000, p. 79). This program evaluation design included a comparison pre-kindergarten program with a post-test, surveys, and attitudinal instruments.
The treatment site was self-selected as a result of an informal discussion between one of the teachers and a member of the program development team. Teams of teachers at the treatment site collaborated with the program team to develop the program. The program was piloted at the treatment site and was later implemented school-wide.
The comparison site was selected because it was similar to the treatment site in all aspects (funding base, criteria for enrollment, services provided to enrolled children and their families, staff training and backgrounds, families being served, and other factors). The comparison site also was in proximity to the treatment site, which helped to ensure that populations with similar demographics were being served by both programs.
At the beginning of the academic year, both the treatment and comparison teachers completed a packet of questionnaires, which included items on demographic backgrounds and two attitudinal measures on parent and father involvement in early-childhood settings. The student and teacher demographics were similar in the comparison and treatment programs. There were 7 teachers at the comparison and 14 teachers at the treatment site. The comparison pre-kindergarten program enrolled approximately 175 children age 3 and 4 and 300 children at the treatment site. The two attitudinal measures were the Attitudes Toward Father Involvement (ATFI) scale and an adapted version of the General Attitudes Toward Parent Involvement (GATPI) scale. Both scales were used to assess teachers’ attitudes toward father involvement in early childhood programs.
During the academic year, detailed information tracking parent involvement activities and contacts with teachers was gathered from both sites. Types of information recorded for each contact included the method of contact, such as phone call, school visit, home visit, or written note; the nature/focus of the contact, such as developmental progress, behavior, or health issues; who initiated the contact—school or family/home; gender of person contacting the school when the contact is initiated from home; and gender of the person contacted at home by the school. Parent-involvement contacts ranged from one-on-one parent-teacher conferences to open house events. Data was collected for the evaluation at both sites in 13 consecutive two-week segments. Research assistants visited each teacher at the end of each two-week period to provide assistance. At the end of the 26-week period, each teacher received a $250 stipend. Information from the data-recording sheets for each of the 13 two-week periods was collapsed into a single record. Proportional scores were used because of the unequal number of teachers at the treatment and control sites.
Key Evaluation Findings
The study had the following findings in comparing the treatment site with the preschool that did not have the training program:
- Fathers/men participated in parent involvement activities at a significantly higher rate at the preschool with the training program.
- Prior to the start of the program, 5 percent of the total parent involvement at the preschool with the training program included fathers/males. By the program's third year, this participation rate was up to 23 percent at the treatment school and 12 percent at the comparison school was.
- Teachers participating in the training program reported significantly more parent involvement contacts with fathers/males than did teachers at comparison program schools, regardless of their level of commitment to involving fathers/males.
- Of the teachers who participated in the training program, those teachers who were highly committed to involving fathers/males reported significantly more contact with fathers/males than did teachers in the training program who were not highly committed to involving fathers.
- A significantly higher proportion of fathers/males initiated family-member contacts at the treatment site than at the control site.
Public, private, and religious preschool programs; elementary schools; and Head Start.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture funded the program evaluation. The local school system funded the program implementation. The Illinois State Board of Education currently is funding the statewide teacher training.
The focus and intensity of program activities varied over the course of three years based on the identified needs and interests of individual teachers and school teams. Work with one teaching team, for example, focused on actively involving fathers/males in the classrooms. Another teaching team focused on discussions of why it is important to involve fathers in their children's preschool programs. The research and development group that assisted in the development of this program worked with the three teams of four classrooms each at the treatment site on a regular basis for all aspects of the program. The focus of the program was to allow enough flexibility to meet the teachers’ needs. In addition, the program sought to incorporate ways to deal with the resistance that some teachers have to involving fathers/males in school activities.
This program does not have a prescribed or set curriculum.
The research and development group from the University of Illinois provided staff support. This group consisted of the lead program evaluator/article author and two graduate assistants. The group has expertise and experience with similar programs. During the three-year evaluation period, program staff held monthly training and technical assistance meetings with each preschool teaching team and bimonthly meetings for all teachers in the program. In addition, trainers provided individual assistance to teachers. The statewide training program for pre-kindergarten teachers in Illinois has made some adaptations to the original program and schedule.
Issues to Consider
This program received a “promising” rating. The evaluation design had several limitations, including a small sample size of just 21 teachers, a post-test-only design, and lack of a long-term follow-up. The disadvantage to the post-test-only design was that it was not entirely certain that differences between the groups resulted from the program. Absent a long-term follow-up, it is not possible to comment on the program’s sustainability over time. Although the results of the evaluation were encouraging, the limitations of the study design make it difficult to generalize the findings to other similar intervention programs. It should also be noted that there were no outside evaluators of this program; the evaluation was conducted solely by the program designer.
Dr. Brent McBride
Childhood Development Laboratory
University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign
1105 W. Nevada
Urbana, IL 61801
phone: (217) 333-0971
fax: (217) 333-0961
Program developers currently are working on training and technical assistance materials for use by preschool teachers around the country.
McBride, B. A., T. R. Rane,
Father/Male Involvement in Early Childhood Programs: Training Staff to Work with Men,
in J. Fagan and A. J. Hawkins, eds., Clinical and Educational Interventions with Fathers, Binghampton, NY: The Haworth Clinical Practice Press, 2001.
McBride, B. A., T. R. Rane, and J. Bae, Intervening with Teachers to Encourage Father/Male Involvement in Early Childhood Programs, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Vol. 16, pp. 77-93, 2000.