The Evidence Portal

Kids in Transition to School (KITS)

About the program         

The Kids in Transition to School (KITS) program features a 16-week group-based school readiness curriculum for children and groups for caregivers. It has two phases.

The school readiness phase (approximately two thirds of the curriculum) occurs in the 2 months before kindergarten entry and includes child playgroups that meet twice weekly and caregiver groups that meet twice monthly. This phase is focused on preparing children for school.

The transition or maintenance phase occurs in the first 2 months of kindergarten, during which the children meet once a week for playgroups and the caregivers continue to meet twice monthly. This phase focuses on supporting a positive transition to school.

The KITS program is based on the rationale that effective interventions are time-sensitive. The period of transition to school is a critical developmental stage and therefore, an optimal period for intervention. At this critical life stage, children are in the process of reorganising their competencies and might be particularly open to learning. The program does not necessarily follow an academic calendar. However, it is designed to be an intervention during a time that children might fail to gain or even lose critical skills necessary for school success.

The KITS program focuses on self-regulatory skills in addition to early literacy and social skills. The program curriculum explicitly teaches, models, and reinforces self-regulation skills. The curriculum has frequent learning opportunities specifically focused on critical early literacy, social, and self-regulatory skills within the classroom context.

Who does it work for?  

The KITS program is a short-term intervention to increase school readiness prior to kindergarten entry and to promote better subsequent school functioning in children in foster care.

A total of 192 children in foster care and their caregivers participated in a randomised efficacy trial of the KITS program (Pears et al., 2012). Participants who were already involved in another treatment protocol closely associated with the KITS intervention were not eligible for inclusion. On average, students were 5.2 years of age. Children’s ethnicity was European American (51-55%); African American (30-31%); and Mixed 10-18%. 

The review did not identify any evidence that the program has been evaluated in Australia or with First Nations communities.

What outcomes does it contribute to?   

Positive outcomes:

Pre-literacy skills, Self-regulation: Pears and colleagues (2013) demonstrated that children in foster care who received the KITS program showed greater gains in both their early literacy and self-regulatory skills across the 8 weeks of the school readiness phase of the intervention just prior to kindergarten entry than did children who received foster care services as usual.

Student oppositional and aggressive behaviour: Pears and colleagues (2012) found a significant intervention effect on children's oppositional and aggressive behaviour with children in the intervention group showing lower levels of oppositional and aggressive behaviours.

No effect:

Level of disruptiveness in the classroom, Prosocial skills: Children’s level of disruptiveness in the classroom remained unchanged in the treatment group (Pears et al. 2012). The intervention failed to show a significant impact on prosocial skills (Pears et al. 2013).

Negative outcomes:


Is the program effective?

Overall, the program had a mixed effect on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Mixed research evidence (with no adverse effects):

  • At least one high-quality RCT/QED study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • An equal number or more RCT/QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT/QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects

How is it implemented?

Teachers and caregiver group facilitators form the KITS school readiness group. All facilitators complete a standardised training program before the school readiness groups begin. At weekly intervention team meetings, facilitators discuss the progress of individual families within the three school readiness domains, and formulate strategies to address behavioural and literacy needs within the broader curriculum.

The KITS intervention consists of two components.:

1. The school readiness group

A 24-session school readiness group runs for 2 hours twice weekly in summer, and 2 hours once weekly in  autumn. The intervention covers the 2 months prior to kindergarten entry and the first 2 months of kindergarten. A graduate-level lead teacher and two assistant teachers conduct the school readiness groups with 12-15 children using a manualised set of empirically based instructional and positive behaviour management strategies.

The school readiness group focuses on promoting early literacy and social-emotional skills in children. The school readiness group sessions have a highly structured, consistent routines with many transitions between activities. The curriculum covers:

  • Early literacy skills (e.g., letter names, phonological awareness, conventions of print, and comprehension)
  • Essential social skills (e.g., reciprocal social interaction, social problem-solving, and emotion recognition)
  • Self-regulatory skills (e.g., handling frustration and disappointment, controlling impulses, following multistep directions, listening, and making appropriate transitions)

The curricular objectives are clearly specified for each session by skill domain, and activities are designed to promote these specific skills (i.e., the early literacy activities include a letter of the day (letter naming and letter–sound knowledge), a poem of the week (phonological awareness, concepts about print, and language), and storybook and dramatic activities (understanding of narrative).

Prosocial and self-regulatory skills are taught using a blend of:

  • instruction (e.g., teachers define sharing, provide verbal examples, and ask the children for examples)
  • role-playing (e.g., teachers model sharing and not sharing in a series of skits and children are asked to differentiate between the two)
  • activity-based intervention (e.g., children must complete an art project requiring that they share the materials).

Teachers give feedback to children and guide their practice of target skills. There are multiple opportunities for using inhibitory control, maintaining attentional focus, and practicing newly acquired social skills across activities.

2. The KITS caregiver group

The 8-session caregiver group runs for 2 hours every 2 weeks. It is focused on promoting caregiver involvement in early literacy and schooling. The caregiver group meetings coincide with the school readiness group meeting times. Each group is led by a facilitator and an assistant.

The manualised caregiver curriculum focuses on skills relevant to the kindergarten transition. These include helping children to develop their early literacy skills, and promoting child self-regulation using behaviour management skills consistent with the school readiness group curriculum. The facilitator presents information to caregivers, leads structured group discussion of materials, and addresses questions and concerns. Facilitators reinforce skill acquisition via role-plays and discussion. Caregivers who miss a meeting receive a home visit or a phone call from the facilitator to cover the content and materials for that session.

Families receive supplementary materials to support the implementation of new skills. These include weekly school readiness group homework assignments, weekly home-school connection newsletters outlining the school readiness group topics for a given week, and home practice activities.

Implementation fidelity for the school readiness groups was determined by trained coders in vivo or via videotape based on systematic coding of the presence or absence of key elements of the curriculum.

How much does it cost?

Information not provided

What else should I consider?

Evidence shows that the KITS program might be an effective way to prevent disruptive classroom behaviours in a group at high risk for school difficulties. Delivered at the developmentally critical stage of transition to kindergarten, the KITS program appears to decrease the likelihood that the children will be oppositional and aggressive in their classrooms up to 8 months later. This might reduce the likelihood that these children will engage in disruptive and externalising behaviours as they proceed through primary school, potentially setting the stage for better outcomes throughout school.

The results of the study suggest that improving school readiness in children in foster care might improve behaviour across kindergarten.

The positive results of this short-term intervention also suggest that targeting critical transition points in the lives of these children and focusing on essential skills for the successful navigation of those transitions might be an efficacious, and cost-effective means of preventive intervention.

Some of the limitations identified in the study were:

  • The study sample was moderate in size compared to other randomised trials of pre-kindergarten interventions. This reflects the challenges in recruiting participants in this population.
  • Although the ethnicity of the sample was reflective of the state in which the participants lived, the proportions of some ethnic groups such as African Americans were not representative of the national average. This reduces the generalisability of findings and therefore the external validity of the study. The measures of overall classroom disruption were not independent of the measures of the oppositional and aggressive behaviour of the focal children, as they focused on all the children in the class including the study child. While positively correlated, the two measures were not singular. Thus, it is likely that while they might have overlapped, the measure of classroom disruptiveness was reflecting the behaviour of students other than the study child.

Where does the evidence come from?

  • RCT conducted in the US with a sample of 192 children in foster care and their caregivers (Pears et al. 2012, 2013)

Further resources

  • Pears, K.C., Fisher, P.A., Kim, H.K., Bruce, J., Healey, C.V., and Yoerger, K. 2013. Immediate effects of a school readiness intervention for children in foster care. Early Education and Development, 24(6), 771-791.
  • Pears, K.C., Kim, H.K., and Fisher, P.A. 2012. Effects of a school readiness intervention for children in foster care on oppositional and aggressive behaviours in kindergarten. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(12), 2361-2366.
Last updated:

02 Nov 2023

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