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IES Grant

Title: Creating a Connecticut Early Childhood Education Research Alliance
Center: NCER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Strambler, Michael Awardee: Yale University
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/2014 – 6/30/2016) Award Amount: $399,728
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H140142

Co-Principal Investigator: Coleman, George

Partnership Institutions: Yale University School of Medicine; Education Development Center, Inc.; Connecticut Cooperative Education Services

Purpose: The main research goals of this partnership/alliance included understanding how children performed on state-developed preschool measures; how preschool child outcomes predicted kindergarten outcomes; and what teacher and school-level factors contributed to preschool and kindergarten performance. This served as a starting point for approaching the larger question of what kinds of school climate and teaching practices impacted preschool performance. A series of research agenda-setting work sessions (as described below) were used to further develop the goals of the alliance and specific topics to be addressed.

Project Activities: The research alliance consists of three levels of membership: core members, supporting members, and affiliates. The core members of the alliance consist of researchers at Yale University School of Medicine,  Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), and practitioners at Cooperative Education Services. Supporting members include the school districts of Bridgeport Public Schools, Stamford Public Schools, and Norwalk Public Schools. Additional supporting members include the Connecticut Department of Education and the State Office of Early Childhood. Affiliate members consist of all other individuals, groups, organizations, and institutions interested in the alliance and its mission. Additionally, the alliance includes two expert advisors, who have provided general guidance for the alliance and serve as internal reviewers of reports produced by the alliance. Over a two-year period, the alliance engaged in development, outreach, research, and sustainability activities. During the first year, the partners worked together to introduce the alliance to early childhood centers and request their support and participation in the alliance as supporting members. Year one research focused on establishing a research review team that had the responsibility of reviewing and critiquing all research reports prior to public release. To ensure that the multi-year research agenda was cohesive and addresses the interests of all core alliance members and their constituents, a series of research agenda-setting workshops were conducted with alliance members. A primary outreach goal for year two involved organizing a conference to take place at the end of the year. In addition to the conference, the partners worked with a web designer to develop a website to publicly share information about the alliance. They also finalized data-sharing agreements with the State Department of Education and center-based preschool programs. A main research goal for year two was to finalize analyses for the research questions outlined in the initial proposal. This process also resulted in numerous technical research and policy reports, which have been distributed to all interested parties and posted on the website.

Key Outcomes:

  • Engaging partners in developing a shared research agenda could ensure that the agenda reflects the needs and interests of each organization. Funders' priorities, standards, and structures affect what types of research questions are fundable (Meyer et al., 2023).
  • The Partnership for Early Education Research (PEER) has changed how early childhood education stakeholders in Connecticut think about education research, demonstrated the value of research partnerships, increased stakeholders' interest in participating actively in future projects, and developed stakeholders' capacity to engage in collaborative research.
  • PEER received funding from the Spencer Foundation's Research-Practice Partnership Program to support a project focused on one area of the long-term research agenda: supporting dual language learners (DLLs).

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research was conducted in Bridgeport, Norwalk, and Stamford school districts in Connecticut.

Sample: The sample consisted of all public preschool children in Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwalk (approximately 1,200 children). Additionally, private early learning centers invited to participate in the alliance and to share data.

Education Issue: At the start of this partnership, Connecticut had the largest achievement gap between low-income and non-low-income students in the country, according to indicators on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. On a national level, there is strong evidence that the achievement gap is present at school entry and has powerful influences on children's achievement trajectories. Such findings point to the importance of children's early educational experiences that take place prior to school entry. Many states have made efforts to improve preschool experiences for children, including developing Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) to assess the quality of preschool settings and provide consumers with information on the ratings of such programs. Before this project, Connecticut was in the process of developing such a system based on the recommendations made by the state's Early Childhood Education Cabinet. While Connecticut had yet to complete its QRIS, the state had taken important steps towards strengthening the quality of preschool settings and the assessment of such settings. These steps included the development of a preschool assessment measure and the creation of a newly formed Office of Early Childhood (OEC). Connecticut developed the Connecticut Preschool Assessment Framework (CTPAF) in 2008. The measure, which was designed in alignment with a preschool curriculum framework, was intended to assess students' abilities in various domains of ability. However, since the State did not mandate or collect these data, little was known about how students perform on the measure and whether it is predictive of kindergarten readiness.

Research Design and Methods: This research team  used a quantitative approach that included descriptive and regression analysis.

Key Measures: Key measures included Connecticut's first statewide measure of preschool performance for 3- and 4-year-old children, the Connecticut Preschool Assessment Framework (CTPAF), and the Kindergarten Entrance Inventory (KEI) results.

Data Analytic Strategy: The Developmental Reading Assessment, Second Edition (DRA2), administered in kindergarten, was also examined as an outcome. Researchers conducted analyses over a four-year period. To address the research questions concerning students' performance on the CTPF, basic descriptive statistics were conducted for each year. To address questions concerning how preschool performance predicts kindergarten performance, the research team used regression analyses with individual–level preschool performance as an independent variable and kindergarten performance as an outcome. Researchers used regression analysis to address questions on teacher and setting-level factors that contribute to strong performance.

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Project Website: Partnership for Early Education Research (PEER)

Select Publication:

Meyer, J. L., Waterman, C., Coleman, G. A., & Strambler, M. J. (2023). Whose agenda is it? Navigating the politics of setting the research agenda in education research-practice partnerships. Educational Policy, 37(1), 122–146.