Effects of Prekindergarten Curricula:
Tools of the Mind as a Case Study

Volume 86, Issue 1, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development

By Kimberly T. Nesbitt and Dale C. Farran

Included in this issue:


Quality early childhood education requires evidence for strategies that lead to positive outcomes. Some educators have recently argued for the value of providing intentional, scripted prekindergarten curricula. In this Monograph, Nesbitt and Farran describe their longitudinal, field-based randomized control trial of one such curriculum—Tools of the Mind (Tools)—as taught during the 2010-2011 school year. Various outcome data were collected while children were in prekindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade (2010-2013). Comparisons of children from 32 Tools and 28 business-as-usual (control) classrooms showed no greater gains for Tools than for control children on measures of academics, executive function, or self-regulation. Data from this study are compared to findings from evaluations of Tools published through 2020. Fidelity of curriculum implementation showed no consistent association with child outcomes. The authors also examined general classroom practices and processes that Tools’ personnel (e.g., developers, teacher coaches) expected to be affected by the curriculum, but these, too, showed little impact of instructional condition. The authors close the monograph by offering four Lessons Learned to guide future curriculum development, evaluation, and implementation.

About the Authors

Kimberly T. Nesbitt

Department of Human Development and Family Studies,
University of New Hampshire

Kimberly T. Nesbitt, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Nesbitt’s research focuses on the development of cognition in early childhood as it relates to school readiness, with a primary focus on academic achievement and executive function. Her work seeks to understand how to prepare young children for school.

Dale C. Farran

Peabody College,
Vanderbilt University

Dale C. Farran, Ph.D., has been involved in research and intervention for high-risk children and youth all of her professional career including as a researcher on the Abecedarian Project for 10 years, most recently leading the only randomized control trial of statewide prekindergarten, longitudinal evaluations of prekindergarten curricula, and developing measures and strategies to improve prekindergarten classrooms.



Overview: Effects of Prekindergarten Curricula: Tools of the Mind as a Case Study

Is a scripted and intentional curriculum necessary for high-quality early education? SRCD Monograph authors Kimberly Nesbitt and Dale Farran discuss how their controlled evaluation of the prekindergarten curriculum, Tools of the Mind, led them to four “Lessons Learned” for guiding future curriculum development, evaluation, and implementation.

Origins of Research on Prekindergarten Curricula
How does longitudinal research in preschool settings begin and evolve?

Children’s Experiences in Prekindergarten Programs
What kind of experiences do children need in prekindergarten programs?

Teacher Preparation for Prekindergarten Programs
What skills do pre teachers need to enter the early education workforce? How can pre-service training better prepare teachers?

Teacher Implementation of Prekindergarten Curricula
What pressures do teachers experience when they implement prekindergarten curricula? Who decides to use a particular curriculum, and how do teachers adapt to changing demands in schools?

Vision for Early Childhood Education in the USA
How can early childhood education become more effective, inclusive, responsive, efficient and evidence-informed? What is the impact of national policies, and how do policies affect individual families?

Teaching and Research Resources