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Supporting Early Learning From Preschool Through Early Elementary School Grades Network


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FY Awards


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Dr. Caroline Ebanks
(202) 245-8320


Early Learning Network website:

In FY 2016, the Institute initiated a new grant program, Research Networks Focused on Critical Problems of Policy and Practice, to focus resources and attention on education problems or issues that are high priority for the nation, and to create both a structure and process for researchers who are working on these issues to share ideas, build new knowledge, and strengthen their research and dissemination capacity. Each Network consists of several research teams working on the same issue, and is coordinated by a Network Lead. The ultimate objective of the Networks it to advance the field’s understanding of a problem or issue beyond what an individual research project or team is able to do on its own, and to assist policymakers and practitioners in using this information to strengthen education policies and programs and improve student education outcomes.

The Supporting Early Learning From Preschool Through Early Elementary School Grades Network (Early Learning Network) will examine why many children—especially children from low-income households or other disadvantaged backgrounds—experience academic and social difficulties as they begin elementary school. Network members will focus on identifying malleable factors (such as state and local policies, instructional practices, parental support, and others) that are associated with early learning and achievement from preschool through the early elementary school grades. The Network’s ultimate objective is to advance the field’s understanding and implementation of policies and programs that support early learning and ongoing academic success.

The Early Learning Network includes five Research Teams, an Assessment team, and a Network Lead. Their roles are as follows:

  • The Research Teams will each conduct three complementary, prospective studies: (1) a descriptive study of systems-level policies and practices that support early learning; (2) a classroom observation study to identify teaching practices and other classroom-level malleable factors associated with children's school readiness and achievement in preschool and early elementary school; and (3) a longitudinal study to identify malleable factors associated with early learning and school achievement over time from preschool through the early elementary school grades (e.g., kindergarten through third grade) for preschool attenders and non-attenders. This research will take place in Boston Public Schools (PI: JoAnn Hsueh, MDRC); Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia (PI: Robert Pianta, University of Virginia); twelve urban and rural school districts in Nebraska (PI: Susan Sheridan); four rural counties in North Carolina (PI: Margaret Burchinal, University of North Carolina); and the State of Ohio (PI: Laura Justice, Ohio State University).
  • The Assessment team will develop and validate a classroom observation tool that can be used by practitioners (e.g., program directors, district administrators, master teachers, coaches). This observation tool will assess structural elements, classroom processes, and quality of instruction in different subject matter areas that are associated with child academic and social-behavioral outcomes during preschool and early elementary grades and that are predictive of later learning and school achievement. (PI: Carol Connor, Arizona State University.)
  • The Network Lead will plan and facilitate annual network meetings, coordinate network supplementary activities, develop and host a network website, organize briefings and presentations, host annual meetings with Preschool Development Grant recipients, and provide research guidance and tools for early childhood practitioners. (PI: Susan Sheridan, University of Nebraska.)

The Network Lead, Research Teams, and Assessment team will meet regularly to discuss research plans and progress and to identify ways that they can strengthen their collective work by collaborating on data collection tools, common measures, dissemination of study findings, and other activities.

Early Learning Network Products:

Policy for Supplementary Studies for Network Members

Press release for the Early Learning Network, January 2016

The Institute is not accepting new applications for the Early Learning Network.