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.
This research brief focuses on self-regulation in early childhood, providing insight into factors that influence the development of children’s self-regulation skills. Research findings from the Educare Learning Network on self-regulation in early childhood:
- Add to existing research demonstrating the importance of key relationships (i.e., with parents, teachers or other caregivers, and peers) across contexts (home, early childhood program) for the development of young children’s self-regulation abilities.
- Show that longer time spent in Educare was beneficial for children’s self-regulation development, particularly Dual Language Learners (DLLs).
- Demonstrate the essential role that relationships with parents, teachers and peers play in supporting the development of children’s self-regulation skills.
This brief summarizes Educare research findings, together with other research literature exploring self-regulation, and provides insights into future research, relevant policies and best practices that have the potential to strengthen early relationships and optimize the learning and development of young children from disinvested communities. Researchers, ECE systems and program leaders, practitioners, advocates, policymakers and funders should center race, ethnicity and linguistic diversity in research on children’s self-regulation, work to foster and strengthen positive parent-child relationships in early childhood, promote positive teacher-child interactions in ECE settings, and strive to expand access to and promote long-term participation in high-quality ECE programs.
Intensive Family Engagement Targeted Supports
As an accompaniment to an earlier Educare Insights brief on Targeted Supports (2021), a quality improvement effort to intensify family engagement (IFE), this brief (2023) focuses on findings from the next phase of evaluation exploring changes in staff, program and family outcomes. Research findings from the Educare Learning Network on Targeted Supports:
- Show that the additional time, energy and resources devoted to advancing the quality of IFE policies and practices through Targeted Supports encouraged richer family engagement efforts and improved collaboration among school leaders and staff
- Demonstrate that a targeted approach to improving the intensity and quality of family engagement efforts in ECE programs helps to align school leaders and staff in their program operations, services and processes related to family engagement, and to establish meaningful and relevant partnerships and relationships with and for families
- Reveal that intentionally implementing family-centered, accessible and intentional activities, spaces, training, programming and outreach methods contribute to a range of improved family outcomes.
This brief also describes shifts in the implementation or delivery of Targeted Supports and Educare schools’ IFE efforts due to the COVID-19 pandemic and examines new evaluation questions related to changes in knowledge, attitudes and skillsets of participating school leaders and staff, as well as changes in program-level IFE practices and indicators of family progress. The brief also offers implications and recommendations for practice, policy and research based on the evaluation findings and lessons learned.
Educare Insights Data Bites
Educare Insights Data Bites are short reads aimed at building awareness, sparking dialogue and spurring further inquiry by situating descriptive data points, examples and voices from the Network in the context of current challenges or opportunities within the ECE field. They are designed to drive hypotheses and more rigorous future analysis.
Data Bites invite problem solvers, innovators, practitioners, investors and anyone who loves the ECE field to “bite” into questions and discussion about data on timely topics. It is our hope as a Network that the Data Bites inspire more intentional use of data for program improvements, policy and systems change, and knowledge generation to ensure every family has equitable access to quality early care and learning.
Well-Being of Hispanic Children & Families
This first Data Bite focuses on the experiences and outcomes of Hispanic/Latine children and families enrolled in Educare schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers explored a range of well-being indicators, including teacher reports of children’s social-emotional protective factors and family reports of perceived stress, resilience, level of support and more. Initial findings are:
- Hispanic children enrolled in Educare schools during the pandemic received higher teacher ratings of their social-emotional skills than Hispanic children enrolled prior to the pandemic.
- Fewer Hispanic children were rated as having behavioral concerns during the pandemic.
Questions for Practitioners to “Bite” Into:
- LEVERAGING DATA: What does the well-being of Hispanic children and families enrolled in other ECE programs look like during the pandemic?
- FOCUSING ON STRENGTHS: How well do indicators of well-being emphasize the strengths, rather than deficits, of Hispanic children and families?
- IMPROVING PROGRAMS: What barriers might exist to implementing a strengths-based approach and how can they be successfully navigated?
- IMPROVING POLICIES: What systems and policy changes are needed to best support the well-being of Hispanic children and families enrolled in ECE programs?
For more, check out the full Data Bite!
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.