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“Dosage” Effects on Developmental Progress During Early Childhood Intervention: Accessible Metrics for Real-Life Research and Advocacy

Bagnato, Stephen J. EdD; Suen, Hoi K. EdD; Fevola, Antonio V. PhD

doi: 10.1097/IYC.0b013e3182104896

The accountability movement in education, in general, and early childhood intervention (ECI), specifically, have fueled the debate aboutthe quality, benefits, and limitations of various types of publicly funded ECI and human service programs (PEW Charitable Trusts, 2008; National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences, 2009) not only in the United States but also internationally. However, policymakers, government regulatory bodies, and philanthropies are confused often by the complexity of our research methods and have proposed the conceptof “dosage” (time-in-program) as a simpler way to depict child progress during program participation as an accountability model. Despite its technical and programmatic limitations, the dosage concept can be made uniform and rigorous to inform and to advocate. We haveproposed and field-validated an “ECI minimum dosage” methodology that uses performance (ie, effect size) criteriafrom national ECI studies and regression metrics to establish a minimum comparative standard for state and national accountability andreal-life program evaluation research efforts and advocacy in ECI for children at developmental risk. Practitioners and researchers canaccess a Web site to employ an excel program to input and analyze their data. In this article, we present dosage and progress data on n = 1350 children in a high-profile ECI initiative in the Pennsylvania to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed minimum-dosagemetrics. Implications and lessons learned for practitioners, researchers, and policymakers are presented. Guide points to help programs toconduct applied research in real-life community settings to show “how good they are at what they do” are offered. With moreaccessible metrics, we can be more persuasive to advocate and influence public policy in ECI in desired directions for the benefits of allchildren, families, and programs—especially our most vulnerable ones.

Author Affiliations: Schools of Medicine and Education, Pediatrics & Applied Developmental Psychology and Office of Child Development (Dr Bagnato), School of Education, Educational Psychology, Penn State (Dr Suen), and School of Medicine, Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Dr Fevola).

Correspondence: Stephen J. Bagnato, EdD, Early Childhood Partnerships (ECP), Office of Child Development, 400 N. Lexington Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15208 (

©2011Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.