Research Evidence from the Educare Learning Network
The Educare Learning Network creates dynamic partnerships by bringing together diverse audiences who share the common goal of expanding access to high-quality early childhood education and reducing the socioeconomic opportunity gap. To achieve this aim, we are launching a new series to ensure that the research and evaluation conducted within the Network are both widely accessible and actionable. The Educare Insights series shares key Educare findings, lessons learned and recommendations for practice, policy and research through written briefs on critical topics in early childhood. Each brief includes a ‘spotlight’ which amplifies the voices and stories of Network members.
Learn about the findings:
Dual Language Learners
The first research brief in this series focuses on Dual Language Learners (DLLs) – defined as children under five who are learning a second language while continuing to develop their first/home language. DLLs are one of the fastest growing populations in the United States and make up a significant proportion of children enrolled in ECE programs – including at Educare schools. Research findings from the Educare Learning Network on DLL children:
- Demonstrate the benefits of dual language learning opportunities in the classroom
- Indicate that increased use of Spanish (children’s home language) in the classroom was related to higher Spanish language outcomes compared to DLLs in classrooms where less Spanish was used
- Suggest that earlier enrollment in ECE programs and longer duration of program enrollment positively benefit DLL children’s outcomes
This brief summarizes Educare research findings, together with other research literature on DLLs, and provides insights into policies and best practices to foster the teaching, learning and development of young DLLs. ECE leaders, practitioners, advocates, policymakers and funders should strive to expand access to ECE programs for DLLs, promote continued enrollment and ensure that programs have the resources and expertise necessary to support DLLs.
Timing and Length of Enrollment
The second research brief in this series focuses on timing and length of enrollment (i.e., dosage) in early care and education (ECE), providing insight into the role that ECE dosage may play in young children’s development. Research findings from the Educare Learning Network on timing and length of enrollment:
- Add to research demonstrating the benefits of a higher dosage of high-quality ECE on the development of children living in challenging circumstances
- Reveal that earlier entry in Educare was related to positive English language development for children, especially DLLs
- Show that longer time spent in Educare was related to children’s positive language development and school readiness
- Provide mixed evidence across studies about the relationship between ECE exposure and children’s social-emotional outcomes and underscore the need for further research
This brief summarizes Educare research findings, together with other research literature exploring ECE dosage in relation to children’s outcomes and provides insights into relevant policies and best practices that have the potential to optimize the learning and development of young children from low-income backgrounds. ECE systems and program leaders, practitioners, advocates, policymakers and funders should strive to expand access to high-quality ECE programs for children and families in underserved communities beginning in infancy, promote long-term participation and continued enrollment in those high-quality ECE programs, and conduct additional research while integrating more evidence-based social-emotional programming and learning opportunities in ECE settings.
A Targeted Approach to Intensive Family Engagement
The third brief in this series focuses on program practice – specifically a quality improvement effort called Targeted Supports – and its implementation within the Educare Learning Network. The purpose of Targeted Supports is to help school leaders and staff develop, apply and strengthen their family engagement practices. Targeted Supports advances this purpose through focused work with early childhood practice consultants, professional development sessions and peer collaboration via a community of practice (CoP) centered on creating and sustaining an empowering school culture that intentionally partners with families.
Lessons learned on Targeted Supports:
- Add to the growing evidence base demonstrating the components and benefits of a targeted approach to improving the intensity and quality of family engagement efforts in ECE programs
- Reveal that a program-wide definition, shared goal setting and action planning that support consistency in intention and focus of practices among ECE leaders and staff can be effective strategies to improve family engagement efforts, especially related to fostering a warm and inclusive program environment
- Show that creating and engaging in opportunities for focused consultation, peer-to-peer connections and/or a CoP among ECE leaders and staff help to elevate family engagement efforts and serve as opportunities to intentionally reimagine and implement family engagement practices during unprecedented, challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic
This brief describes Targeted Supports and summarizes initial evaluation findings of its pilot implementation – together with other research literature exploring efforts to deepen family engagement in ECE – to offer valuable insights into best practices and policies focused on intensive family engagement. ECE leaders, practitioners, advocates, policymakers and funders should prioritize and strive to expand quality improvement efforts and professional development on intensive family engagement.
We gratefully acknowledge funding support from the Buffett Early Childhood Fund (BECF) and other Network funders supporting research, evaluation and dissemination. The authors would like to thank our Educare schools including the incredible children, families, leaders and staff that engage in the Network’s research and evaluation as well as the exceptional Network researchers and evaluators, especially those that conducted the research studies cited in these reports.