School of Education
April 1, 2013
Researcher first came to UC Irvine in 1992 as an Exchange Student from Switzerland
“I love how working with and for so many smart people combines my passion for children to have a fair start in life with my need for daily cognitive stimulation.”
Andrea Karsh came to UC Irvine in 1992 as an exchange graduate student from Switzerland. She worked in Alison Clarke-Stewart’s research lab in the School of Social Ecology and wrote her thesis on mother-child attachment, using site-specific data collected as part of the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) funded Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. In 1993, she received her M.A. in Child and Adolescent Psychology from the University of Bern, Switzerland, with minors in Education and Journalism.
For the next 15 years, Andrea worked for Professor Clarke-Stewart on the longitudinal Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, first as research associate and later as the site coordinator. In 2008, when the study came to an end and Clarke-Stewart retired, Andrea moved from Social Ecology to Education to work for Deborah Lowe Vandell and Kim Pierce on afterschool research. Andrea’s expertise from her years in research is assessing quality of care in all types of maternal and non-maternal care. She was able to use this knowledge working on Professor Vandell’s Study of Promising Programs and subsequently on several other research projects. Since 2008 she has been a researcher the following research projects for Professor Vandell:
Study of Promising After-School Programs Follow-Up Study:
The Study of Promising After-School Programs was conducted by research teams at the University of California; Irvine, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Policy Studies Associates, Inc. The purpose of the study was to determine the short-term and long-term impacts of high-quality after-school programs on the cognitive, academic, and socioemotional development of children and adolescents in high-poverty communities. The participating after-school programs were selected following a national search for high-quality programs serving low-income students. The programs were located in 14 cities in 8 states and included 35 programs serving elementary and middle school youth. A total of 2,914 students, some of whom attended the selected programs and some who did not, participated in the study. A follow-up study examined long-term impacts of program participation on the same students five years later; data collected included achievement test scores, grades, school attendance, work habits, task persistence, misconduct, substance use, school engagement, and expectations for the future.
Phase 5 of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development:
The Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) is a five-phase, multi-site, prospective, longitudinal study that has followed a national sample of 1,364 children and their families since the children’s birth in 1991. The study has been guided since its inception by an ecological model in which children’s experiences in family, childcare, school, afterschool, peer, neighborhood, and other contexts are examined in relation to child and adolescent developmental outcomes. The SECCYD is the most comprehensive study conducted to date of children and the many contexts in which they develop
Tiger Woods Learning Center: Ongoing Evaluation Partnership:
This project evaluates a community-learning center in Southern California. The center provides an interactive, technology-enhanced and asset-rich learning environment that supports youth for success in school and on to higher education and a career path. A day program serves students in Grades 5 and 6, and an after-school program serves students in Grades 7-12. The ongoing evaluation has two purposes: (1) to document program implementation, experiences of center participants, and reasons for retention and attrition, and (2) to assess youth developmental outcomes in relation to participation in center activities. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are used to obtain evaluation data, including extensive observations of program activities; interviews and surveys of youth, parents, center staff, and teachers; and the collection and analysis of student-produced work, program documents, and curriculum materials. In-depth case studies provided detailed portraits of select students.
Afterschool Outcome Measures Online Toolbox:
The Online Toolbox is designed to assess students’ skill development and positive behavior using scales that have well-established reliability and validity. Three types of surveys are available: student self-reports, program staff reports, and classroom teacher reports. Students also report the quality of their program experiences with staff, peers, and activities. Participating programs can choose which types of reports they are interested in receiving. Extensive field tests, involving thousands of students in grades 3 to 12, have determined that the Online Toolbox is easy to use and requires only a few minutes to complete.
Summer Learning Outcome Measures Project:
The Summer Learning Outcome Measures were adapted from the Afterschool Outcome Measures Online Toolbox for use by Summer Learning programs. A 2011 pilot study and a 2012 field test of the measures—carried out with a total of seven programs in the Packard Summer Learning Community project in California and three grantees of the National Summer Learning Association—indicate that the Online Toolbox is a viable option for summer learning programs as a means of measuring outcomes to serve their evaluation needs. Pre-post student and staff surveys administered at the beginning and at the end of the summer programs measure changes in students’ skill development and positive behavior change.
STEM in Out-of-School Time: The Power of Discovery:
STEM2 Initiative is an ambitious, comprehensive project that seeks to transform young people’s engagement, interest, and understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subject matter by capitalizing on the opportunities that could be afforded by high quality experiences during out-of-school time (OST). The Initiative seeks to increase the capacity of OST programs in California to offer rich, hands-on learning opportunities in the STEM domain. For the Year 1 Evaluation, researchers at the University of California, Davis were responsible for the documentation of the implementation of activities (the “treatment”) designed to drive the STEM in OST improvements, and Professor Vandell’s research team at the University of California Irvine was responsible for the determination of the effects of the “treatment” on program activities, program staff, and students. For the Year 2 Evaluation, UC Irvine plans to study the effects on a larger group of out-of-school time program sites and to include observations and interviews at a subsample of participating sites.
Development of Training Materials for the Promising Practices Rating System:
The goal of this project is to develop a training program for the Promising Practices Rating System (PPRS), an observational measure of process quality in after-school programs. The training program will allow broader use of the PPRS for research and program development purposes. Videos in afterschool programs represent a range of quality. The videos will be used to prepare an online, video-based training program that includes training videos that illustrate key concepts and provide rating practice, certification, and drift videos to ensure observer reliability, and written materials to complement the videos.
Since Fall 2011, when Distinguished Professor Greg Duncan was awarded his P01 grant “Human Capital Interventions across Childhood and Adolescence,” Andrea has split her work time to become the study coordinator for this multi-disciplinary project while still doing research for Professor Vandell. She also coordinates the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant that is about to hire postdoc fellows to work on the P01 for the next four years.
The overall purpose of the NIH funded P01 research grant is to examine why human capital-oriented intervention programs and policies directed at children in the preschool, middle childhood, and adolescent stages of development have the effects, non-effects, and, in some cases, perverse effects that they do. The study focuses on the congruence (“fit”) between the developmental needs of children and youth and the design and nature of educational interventions designed to augment human capital and promote positive outcomes, particularly for individuals raised in economically disadvantaged families.
In her free time, Andrea enjoys spending time with her family, much of it at the children’s soccer and baseball fields. She and husband Allen have two children, Kaylee, 14, a freshman at Capistrano Valley High School, and Brennan, 11, in 5th grade. Born in the Swiss Alps, Andrea loves skiing and snowboarding. She also is actively involved in the education of about thirty children in an African orphanage. Via Skype she councils the teenagers to help them plan their future and become cycle-breakers in their world of poverty, alcoholism, and AIDS.