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IES Grant

Title: Early Learning Network Lead
Center: NCER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Sheridan, Susan Awardee: University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Program: Supporting Early Learning From Preschool Through Early Elementary School Grades Network      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (6/1/2016-5/31/2021) Award Amount: $1,999,987
Type: Other Goal Award Number: R305N160015

Co-Principal Investigators: Lisa Knoche (University of Nebraska, Lincoln)

Description: A Research Network involves several teams of researchers who are working together to address a critical education problem or issue. The objective is to build new knowledge, encourage information sharing, and assist policymakers and practitioners to strengthen education policies and programs and improve student education outcomes. Members of the Early Learning Network will identify malleable factors that support early learning from preschool through early elementary school grades. They will also develop a classroom observation tool that practitioners can use to assess aspects of classroom quality that are associated with positive academic and social-behavioral outcomes in preschool and early elementary school. The Network includes five Research Teams, an Assessment team, and a Network Lead.

Purpose: The Early Learning Network Lead will provide the programmatic leadership, technical knowledge, and administrative structure needed to ensure the Early Learning Network runs smoothly and accomplishes its goals and objectives. The Network Lead will encourage collaborative efforts across the Research and Assessment Teams and support the dissemination of Network findings and products to practitioners and policymakers. The Network Lead will also provide technical assistance to recipients of Preschool Development Grants (PDG) and offer professional development and research training to postdoctoral research associates and graduate students.

Network Leadership Activities: The leadership activities of the Early Learning Network Lead constitute six primary functions:

  1. Annual Network Meetings. In year 1 of the project, the Network Lead will host two Network meetings and one meeting with PDG recipients. In years 2 through 5, the Network Lead will host an annual Network meeting and an annual meeting with PDG recipients. An additional meeting is planned for year 4 to discuss research concepts emanating from workgroup meetings and engage in future planning.
  2. Supplementary Studies. The Network Lead will organize workgroups based on the interests and expertise of Network members to identify topics and issues suitable for supplementary research that will be jointly undertaken by Network members.
  3. A Network Website. The Network Lead will initiate development of a Network website that will support communication among Network team members and between the Network and public audiences. The website will also serve as a clearinghouse for the Network's resources, research papers, and products.
  4. Policy Briefings and Presentations. The Network Lead will work with the Research Teams and the Assessment Team to organize a series of research-based, practice- and policy-relevant presentations for Network partners' use at practice and policy meetings. Network Lead staff will also develop translational materials for practitioners.
  5. Annual Meetings with PDG Recipients. Each year, the Network Lead will host a 1.5 day workshop in Washington, D.C. for approximately 100 PDG practitioners to support their efforts and share information about the work of the Network. The Network Lead will solicit input from the PDG group to set the agenda for these meetings.
  6. Guidance and Tools for Early Childhood Practitioners. The Network Lead will offer interactive online conferences, develop and disseminate information and tools via the Network website, and provide individualized support to early learning practitioners.

In addition to these six core functions, the Network Lead will provide opportunities for participation and leadership by early career scholars, including post-doctoral investigators and graduate students, to help develop long-term research capacity in the field.

Products: The Network Lead will engage in ongoing dissemination activities with other members of the Network to develop products that explain factors that support children's early learning and achievement and inform policy and practice. Products will include the Network website, research papers, and presentations for a range of stakeholders.

Research Teams: There are five research teams as part of the Early Learning Network and one assessment team. Those research teams are:

  1. Early Education in Rural North Carolina (PI: Margaret Burchinal, R305N160022). This research team will explore malleable factors in early education from preschool through third grade that are believed to promote early learning and development for children in selected rural counties to address links between malleable factors and student outcomes.
  2. Boston P-3: Identifying Malleable Factors for Promoting Student Success (PI: JoAnn Hsueh, R305N160018). This research team will work in collaboration with Boston Public Schools to identify policies, classroom-level factors, and school experiences that are associated with children's school success during pre-k and early elementary school grades.
  3. Early Learning Network: Critical Contributions of Classroom Ecology to Children's Learning (PI: Laura Justice, R305N160024). This research team will conduct its research in pre-k programs and public schools in Ohio. The primary goal of the project is to generate a comprehensive, empirically driven model of the dimensions of classroom ecology and how they shape children's academic and social development during the elementary grades.
  4. Building an Effective PK–3 Education System: Actionable Aspects of Policies, Programs, Schools, and Classroom Processes that Promote Children's Learning in the Nation's 11th Largest School District (PI: Robert Pianta, R305N160021). This research team will examine associations between district policy, classroom processes, and early learning trajectories of low-income children during preschool and the early elementary school grades in Fairfax County, Virginia.
  5. Early Learning Contexts in Rural and Urban Nebraska (PI: Susan Sheridan, R305N160016). This research team will investigate cumulative influences on early learning and achievement for young children at economic disadvantage across rural and urban settings in a Midwestern state.

Assessment Team: Optimizing Learning Opportunities for Students' (OLOS) Early Learning Observation System (PI: Carol Connor, R305N160013). The purpose of this project is to develop an observation tool can be used reliably by practitioners in prekindergarten through third grade (P-3) classrooms to assess instruction, teacher-child interactions, and classroom learning environment. It will build on three existing, integrated, well-validated, and reliable measures and use technology to make it easy to use by practitioners.