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The Agder project

Leveling the playing field: An intervention to promote school readiness and human potential.

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Norway's gaps in learning outcomes between children of advantaged and disadvantaged families are substantial, despite its generous welfare system. Research shows unequivocally that high-quality early-childhood preschool programs can have substantial impacts on children's learning trajectories. Norway may be missing a key opportunity to close the gaps between children of advantaged and disadvantaged families. This is because the learning framework of Norwegian daycare centers (Early Childhood Education and Care, ECEC) does not reflect international empirical evidence from the early childhood education literature linking key curricular foci to successful child development.

Our project aims to understand whether Norwegian daycare centers can improve children's developmental trajectories by more systematically cultivate key school readiness skills known to promote future learning. To do so, we will design and implement a randomized field experiment in which we offer five-year-olds at Norwegian daycare centers a school readiness intervention program. The development of the intervention program will be done in collaboration with Norwegian daycare teachers. The intervention program will cultivate four sets of school readiness skills - self-regulation, interpersonal, vocabulary and numeracy skills - which numerous studies have identified as foundational for future learning and development. About 100 daycare centers will participate in the field experiment, with 50 randomly selected centers in the treatment group.

We will examine program effects by assessing children's skills with official mapping tests in first grade and more intensive measuring instruments utilized both at the end of day care and at the end of first grade. Important questions are: Can a more systematic cultivation of self-regulation, interpersonal, vocabulary and numeracy skills of five-year-olds in Norwegian daycare centers improve these children's success in the transition to formal schooling? Is the program particularly beneficial for children from disadvantaged families?

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