AIR Evaluation of First 5 LA Family Literacy Initiative Shows Increased Attendance Rates and Test Scores for Elementary School Students

Washington, D.C. – Elementary school students who participated in First 5 LA’s Family Literacy Initiative before they began kindergarten exhibited better performance on the California Standards Tests (CST) in English language arts and mathematics than their peers, according to new findings from an eight-year evaluation of the initiative by the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

The study examined the performance of 423 children who had participated in one of the family literacy initiative programs and later entered a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) elementary school. The study compared test scores and attendance rates for family literacy program participants with a demographically matched group of children who participated in an alternative program provided by the district – the School Readiness Language Development Program (SRLDP).

Overall, Family Literacy Initiative programs were found to be more intensive than SRLDP. Both programs provided early childhood services and parent education, but family literacy programs also provided adult education (English-as-a-second-language or GED classes) to parents as well as opportunities for parents to interact with their children and receive feedback on parenting practices from a trained parent educator or early childhood teacher.

“Over the course of the study, children participating in the family literacy programs have shown significant growth in language and literacy skills prior to entering kindergarten,” said Dr. Heather Quick, who directed the project for AIR. “Now that these children are in elementary school, they are outperforming their peers in both language arts and mathematics.”

Although English language skills were found to be comparable for Family Literacy and SRLDP participants when the youngsters entered kindergarten, children who participated in the Family Literacy programs performed better than their SRLDP peers on CST exams in both English language arts and mathematics:

  • For grades 2 through 5 combined, Family Literacy students outperformed the SRLDP students on the English language arts assessment by a small, but statistically significant margin.
  • For the math assessment, Family Literacy students in grades 2 through 5 combined scored above the SRLDP students—a modest, but statistically significant, difference.

The evaluation also found that elementary school students who had participated in the Family Literacy Initiative had statistically higher attendance rates in grades 2 through 5 than their matched peers who had participated in SRLDP as preschoolers.

The First 5 LA Family Literacy Initiative is a comprehensive program to promote language and literacy development, parenting knowledge and skills, and economic self-sufficiency among low-income families in Los Angeles County. Family Literacy programs serve primarily low-income families with low parent education levels, whose first language is not English.

First 5 LA is an organization created by California voters to invest tobacco tax revenues in programs that improve the lives of children in Los Angeles County, from prenatal through age 5. First 5 LA contracted with AIR to conduct an eight-year evaluation of the Initiative’s implementation, examining elementary school attendance, English language skills at kindergarten entry, and achievement test scores in English language arts and mathematics for students in grades 2–5.

Children’s Elementary School Outcomes After Participating in Family Literacy Programs may be found on First 5 LA’s website.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


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