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IES Launches Research Network on Early Childhood Education
January 19, 2016

IES Launches Research Network on Early Childhood Education

Early Learning Network to conduct research and develop tools to improve programs and policies across the country.

(01/19/2016)—The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is launching a new research network that will develop reliable information and useful tools to improve early childhood education across the country. IES' National Center for Education Research (NCER) and the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (Departments) today announced that $26 million in grants have been awarded for the creation of the new Early Learning Network, which will conduct its work over the next five years.

"The Early Learning Network will study what is happening in early education programs across the country and how successfully children are making the transition from preschool to elementary school," said Ruth C. Neild, delegated director of IES. "The Network will seek to identify what policymakers and practitioners can do to improve early learning programs so students are prepared for long-term success in school."

Access to preschool and other early childhood education programs has grown across the country in recent years. According to data from IES' National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of children, ages 3 and 4, who are enrolled in a preschool program has risen from 44.4 percent in 1990 to 54.9 percent in 2013. Research indicates that for some students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the positive impact of early childhood education programs does not translate into success in elementary school and beyond. This so-called early learning "fade out" may be due to many factors, including insufficient supports for low-income families during the child's early years, the type of outcomes being measured, or poor alignment between preschool programs and elementary schools.

"As we increase access to early education, we need high-quality research to show us the most effective ways to prepare children for success in elementary school and beyond," said Acting Secretary of Education John King. "The Early Learning Network will develop important information and tools that will help policymakers and practitioners improve preschool and elementary school teaching and learning across the country."

The IES grants, with support from the Departments' jointly-administered Preschool Development Grants program, will allow several research teams to each conduct three studies, with a special focus on disadvantaged students:

In addition, an assessment team will use technology, three existing observation tools, and new data to develop an observation system that can be used in preschool and elementary school classrooms. This new tool will allow practitioners to gather and report detailed information on instruction, teacher-child interactions, and classroom learning environment. This information can be used to improve teaching and learning and student outcomes. A network lead will coordinate the work of all the members of the Early Learning Network and disseminate the findings.

"We believe these networks will lead to important advances in early childhood education," said Thomas W. Brock, Commissioner of NCER. "The idea is for the network teams to develop a deeper understanding of problems and solutions surrounding the issue, and then share what they have learned with policymakers and practitioners to improve teaching and learning for all students."

The grantees for the Early Learning Network are:

For more information about the Early Learning Network and to see descriptions of the work the grantees will do, please visit the Early Learning Network page on the IES Website.

About the Institute of Education Sciences (IES): IES is the independent research, evaluation, and statistics arm of the U.S. Department of Education and is the nation's leading source for information and resources that can be used to improve education. The Institute includes four centers—the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE); the National Center for Education Research (NCER); the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES); and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). For more information, visit the IES website.

About the Preschool Development Grants program: The Preschool Development Grants program, which is jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, supports State and local capacity to implement high-quality preschool for 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. In 2014, a total of 18 awards were made (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia).For more information, visit the Preschool Development Grants website.

Media Contact: Dana Tofig, Communications Director, Institute of Education Sciences, 202-245-8235,