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Midwest Early Childhood Education Research Alliance

Download the alliance’s overview handout [255 KB PDF icon ]

Partnership Facilitator

Billie Jo Day
bday@air.org

Research Liaisons

Jill Bowdon
jbowdon@air.org

Heather Lavigne
hlavigne@edc.org

Partnership Objective

The earliest years of a child’s life are a crucial period of development, with the brain forming more than 1 million new neural connections per second. Healthy environments and rich experiences during the early years provide a strong start and can have a lasting impact on an individual’s achievement, health, and even earnings. Investing in young children’s social-emotional development promotes long-term success, leading to higher self-esteem, increased motivation, and better relationships with peers—making this a high-leverage topic for education stakeholders across the Midwest region.

The REL Midwest Early Childhood Education Research Alliance (MECERA) brings together multiagency early childhood practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to increase the region’s capacity to access, conduct, interpret, and make sense of early childhood education research and to support the use of this research in decisionmaking at the state and local levels. MECERA’s primary focus is early childhood education in Illinois. In addition, a community of practice connects key stakeholders across the region and is an active partner in the research process.

Illinois has received several federal grants to expand access to early childhood education. Additionally, the Illinois State Board of Education is implementing a new kindergarten entry assessment and is committed to using the data to identify gaps in school readiness and to align the early childhood and K–12 systems more strategically.

Members

  • Amy Blaum, Nokomis Public Schools
  • Shelia Boozer, Springfield Public Schools
  • Stephanie Cohen, Chicago Public Schools
  • Karen Corken, Illinois State Board of Education
  • Mary Beth Corrigan, Illinois Department of Children & Family Services
  • Jason Helfer, Illinois State Board of Education
  • Nakisha Hobbs, Illinois Department of Human Services
  • Carisa Hurley, Illinois State Board of Education
  • Kimberly Mann, Illinois Department of Child and Family Services
  • Andrew McCree, Ann Reid Early Childhood Center
  • Lauri Morrison-Frichtl, Illinois Head Start Association
  • Kimberly Nelson, Rockford Public Schools
  • Peggy Ondera, Elgin Area School District U46
  • Bethany Patten, Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development
  • Elliot Regenstein, Foresight Law and Policy
  • Charlie Rosemond, Northern Illinois University
  • Cynthia Tate, Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development

Training, Coaching, and Technical Support Projects

Demystifying the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey for Illinois Prekindergarten Providers

Building on previous training projects with MECERA, REL Midwest is developing trainings on the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS) for prekindergarten (preK) providers in Illinois. The trainings introduce the KIDS instrument, explain and provide examples of the statewide readiness indicators, offer examples of how preK teachers can use the readiness indicators to inform literacy instruction, review crosswalks between KIDS and other common early childhood assessments, and analyze district KIDS data. REL Midwest is facilitating in-person sessions to bring together groups of preK providers working in the same district, as well as a virtual session to ensure that all Illinois preK educators can learn more about KIDS.

Interpreting the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey Workshops

REL Midwest is hosting data use workshops to help Illinois teachers use results from the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS), a kindergarten entry assessment, to set education goals and action steps. In the workshops, teachers have the opportunity to analyze their classrooms’ KIDS data in collaboration with their colleagues. The content is intended primarily for teachers, but school and district administrators who support kindergarten teachers also can benefit. A recording and handouts are available for viewing and download.

Additionally, REL Midwest is working with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to build capacity in the state for local stakeholders to offer the KIDS data use workshops. REL Midwest is providing three training-of-trainers sessions to KIDS coaches, regional education staff, district-nominated teacher leaders, administrators, and other staff to assist ISBE in developing a sustainable training plan for kindergarten teachers. Resources—including a facilitator’s guide, workbook, and slide decks—are available for viewing and download.

Works in Progress

Analysis of Illinois District-Level Reading Achievement Outcomes in Kindergarten and Grade 1 by Student Characteristics

This descriptive study is examining whether reading achievement gaps observed in two districts in Illinois are present in kindergarten. If so, the study will examine whether those gaps widen for some subgroups of students more than others as they move across kindergarten into grade 1.

Children’s Knowledge and Skills at Kindergarten Entry in Illinois: Results From the First Statewide Administration of the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is implementing a new, statewide kindergarten entry assessment titled Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS). Researchers in REL Midwest’s Midwest Early Childhood Education Research Alliance (MECERA) will use quantitative data collected from KIDS to answer research questions about the psychometric properties of the data, the levels of skills children in Illinois have at kindergarten entry, and variations in these skills levels across subgroups and schools. In addition, researchers will collect information on barriers or obstacles that teachers and principals face during data collection to inform revisions to state-provided guidance or training.

Events