TOP Methods and Results
The TOP Longitudinal Study was designed to provide policy makers, business leaders, and other stakeholder evidence of TOP’s effectiveness over the long term.
Wichita State University researchers issued the first annual report on the longitudinal study in 2009. Over the course of the next 6 years, these reports have demonstrated clear quantitative results. Currently, the study comprises 810 TOP graduates and a control group of 2,596 comparable children.
Eligibility and Consent: The primary criterion to participate in the longitudinal study is eight months of continuous enrollment in the TOP program during the year preceding kindergarten entry. A consent form to participate in the longitudinal study is administered to parents or guardians. Consent covers a TOP graduate through elementary school. A second consent is obtained for middle and high school participation.
Teacher Survey: The social questionnaire asks teachers to compare the TOP graduates to the remainder of the children in their class in order to determine whether the TOP graduates used appropriate social skills more often than their peers.
School Performance Data: WSU researchers compare TOP graduates’ school performance data to a demographically-matched control group using descriptive statistics, including: averages and percentages.
Data Synthesis and Analysis: Since a primary goal of the study is to communicate with non-technical audiences such as members of the business community and policymakers, the reports largely rely on descriptive statistics.
For all grades, teachers rated TOP graduates as having greater emotional maturity, greater ability to behave appropriately, and greater social competence than their classmates. Teacher estimations of TOP graduates’ social-emotional skills were statistically significantly higher than average.
For all grades, TOP graduates have noticeably fewer absences on average than their control group peers each year, from kindergarten through the 6th grade.
When the Wichita and Derby school districts are combined, TOP graduates have a lower percentage of special education placements than their control group peers.
Discipline referrals were taken into account to determine behavioral problems. Only repeat office visits were a measure of discipline referral. When looking at the total numbers of kindergarten through 6th grade students, TOP graduates were much less likely to have discipline referrals.
TOP children in 4th, 5th and 6th grades have a considerably lower percentage of students who do not meet state standards in both math and reading compared to the control group.