Jumpstart’s Foster Grandparent Program Evaluation



Jumpstart is a national early education organization with a commitment to enriching the learning experiences of children from underserved communities. Since 1993, teams of volunteers have delivered Jumpstart’s research-based curriculum, which is designed to improve children’s language and literacy skills and social-emotional development. The program is characterized by the individualized attention and learning supports children receive from volunteers in the classroom. In most Jumpstart sites, the volunteers are college students, but in some markets, including Los Angeles, the volunteers are older adults from the community. These older adults are called Community Corps members or “Foster Grandparents,” under some funding streams. As of 2017-18, older adults represented about 4 percent of the 4,054 Jumpstart volunteers who served in 80 school year and summer sites across the country.

Foster Grandparents are on site in preschools for at least three days a week. They provide two types of services and supports to children:

  • Jumpstart sessions: Two mornings a week, the Foster Grandparents lead a structured two-hour session with the children focused on language and literacy and social-emotional development. The sessions include a combination of small-group and whole-group activities anchored in a series of engaging and developmentally appropriate books.

  • Child-Centered Time (CCT): The Foster Grandparents also provide child-centered time (CCT) for four to five hours a week to their assigned children, who can be enrolled in any classroom at the preschool. CCT offers volunteers additional opportunities to contribute to their partner children’s language skills and social-emotional development. 

The Corporation for National and Community Service has awarded Jumpstart and MDRC a contract to evaluate the impact of the Jumpstart Foster Grandparent program on children’s language and literacy and social-emotional development. Though past research has found promising effects on child outcomes, MDRC’s study will expand the body of research on volunteer programs and explore the relative effects of Jumpstart’s Foster Grandparent Program components (curriculum sessions and CCT).

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The Jumpstart project will provide key information to early childhood education researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders on the overall effect of the Jumpstart Foster Grandparent Program model as well as the effects of different program elements on children’s development.

Furthermore, the work will be of interest in the fields of aging and early childhood, as the study examines the feasibility of implementing Jumpstart with older volunteers while also investigating the intergenerational model’s value for both children and Foster Grandparents.

The study will examine several questions:

  1. What is the effect on children’s development of having the Foster Grandparents provide them with the full Jumpstart model (sessions plus CCT for all children in the classroom) for one academic year?

  2. What is the effect on children’s development of having the Foster Grandparents provide CCT for one academic year in their classroom?

  3. What is the direct effect on partner children’s development of having the Foster Grandparents provide them with one-on-one CCT for one academic year?

To better understand the magnitude of the impact findings as well as the role of Foster Grandparents, the study will also examine the fidelity to the Jumpstart model of the program’s implementation as well as the quality of implementation and how much it varies across preschool centers.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

The Jumpstart Foster Grandparent Program evaluation will conduct a rigorous study in 11 Los Angeles early childhood education centers spread across 6 agencies during the 2017-18 program year. Random assignment will be used to assign children at participating centers to one of three types of classrooms: (1) a classroom where all children receive Jumpstart sessions and CCT during nonsession time, (2) a classroom that will receive only CCT and no Jumpstart sessions, and (3) a classroom that will not receive volunteer services. Through this design, it will be possible to evaluate the effect of the full Jumpstart model as well as the isolated effect of CCT only. To meet the sample size requirements, the study will also include classrooms where, because random assignment is not possible, matching methods will be used to choose a comparison group of children. Through this process, there will be minimal changes to the current program’s implementation, meaning that the study will be able to evaluate the effects of the Jumpstart program as it is typically implemented in authentic classroom settings.

Furthermore, the evaluation aims to minimize the data collection burden on participating centers by relying on data that is already collected. Specifically, children’s language/literacy and social-emotional development will be measured using the Desired Results Developmental Profile Preschool (DRDP-PS). The children’s receipt of session and CCT hours will be measured using attendance records and time sheets. Lastly, program implementation fidelity and quality will be assessed using Jumpstart’s monitoring tools, such as volunteer training trackers, volunteer surveys, and volunteer timesheets, supplemented with qualitative interviews with volunteers conducted by MDRC.