Educare schools are helping to bridge the word gap

Research shows that children’s earliest language experiences can shape their future in profound ways.  Disparities in the quality and quantity of talk that children hear before age four contribute to an estimated gap of over 30 million words between children living in poverty and their more affluent peers.

The Word Gap Acceleration Grant partnership brings together three Educare schools and evaluation teams to demonstrate the effectiveness of an evidence-based language intervention to bridge the word gap. The partnership is led by researchers at the University of Kansas, where researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley first brought attention to the 30 million word gap in the 1990s.

The intervention, Promoting Communication – Tools for Advancing Language in Kids (PC TALK), was designed to build the capacity of educators and parents to encourage children’s language learning by encouraging adults to use strategies such as commenting and labeling, asking open-ended questions and giving children time to respond to questions. Teachers and parents can also provide opportunities for children to make choices and create environments that promote communication.

This year, the PC TALK intervention is embedded into sixteen randomly-selected Educare classrooms at Educare Kansas City and Educare West DuPage, with bilingual implementation at Educare West DuPage to evaluate how the approach can be applied to dual-language settings.

In addition, in partnership with Too Small to Fail’s Talking is Teaching initiative, more than twenty families at Educare Tulsa at Kendall-Whittier are participating in the intervention through monthly parent meetings. These activities will be replicated next year across all classrooms and families at each participating Educare school. This project is also included in the Bridging the Word Gap National Research Network Practice-based Research Collaborative.

The key goals of this project are to:

  • Test a model for how Educare can serve as a platform for bridging the word gap
  • Provide information about how Educare schools can embed this approach and activities into their daily curriculum to increase instructional support for language learning
  • Document continuity between children’s language learning in the classroom and at home
  • Document fidelity of the intervention, and generate graphs and reports to provide teachers and parents with feedback
  • Measure child outcomes using a progress monitoring tool and Educare language and classroom quality evaluation measures
  • Share information across the Educare Learning Network and with community organizations to inform efforts to bridge the word gap nationwide

The project was highlighted at the poster session at this year’s Educare Learning Network meeting in Atlanta.