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Child Care and Early Intervention

The Child Care and Early Intervention division, directed by Walter Gilliam, conducts research and policy analysis on child care and other early intervention programs. The division focuses on how policies translate into effective service, ways to improve the quality of prekindergarten and child care services, and the impact of early childhood education programs on children’s school readiness.

Studies conducted by the division examine how prekindergarten programs are being implemented across the range of policy contexts and the effectiveness of these programs at improving school readiness and educational achievement. The division has also completed experimental and quasi-experimental studies on the effectiveness of various methods to improve early education quality. Results from the division’s studies are disseminated to state and federal decision-makers, as well as to national and international news reporters.

Data collection for the National Prekindergarten Study (NPS), funded by the Foundation for Child Development and the Pew Charitable Trusts through the National Institute for Early Education Research, ended in June 2004, and has resulted in two disseminated studies – one on prekindergarten teacher education and compensation and one on prekindergarten expulsion. The NPS is the first-ever national study of the implementation of state-funded prekindergarten programs, using data from a randomly selected sample of 3,898 classrooms across all 40 states that fund prekindergarten services.

The report on teacher educational level and compensation yielded several previously unreported findings about the state of the prekindergarten workforce. The report generated national media attention through national and state-level newspapers and is available online.

The report on prekindergarten expulsion generated massive media attention, with prominent coverage by most major newspapers, national network and cable news stations and national radio and international print coverage. Findings were that prekindergarten students (ages 3 and 4 years old) are expelled at a rate more than three times that of children in grades K-12. Although rates of expulsion vary widely among the 40 states funding prekindergarten, state expulsion rates for prekindergarteners exceed those in K-12 classes in all but three states. In classrooms where the teacher had no access to a psychologist or psychiatrist, students were expelled about twice as frequently. The likelihood of expulsion decreases significantly with access to classroom-based behavioral consultants that provide teachers with assistance in behavior management. These findings have led to legislative action in several states. The complete report and related materials are available online. Follow-up analyses are being conducted to examine the role of classroom and teacher variables in expulsion decisions.

Several more products of the NPS are in development, including analyses of the role of assistant teachers in prekindergarten classrooms, Head Start-public school collaboration in prekindergarten and state factors related to prekindergarten policy adherence and overall quality.

The division has also completed data collection for the first-ever random-controlled evaluation of the effects of a statewide system of early childhood mental health consultation as a way for reducing classroom behavior problems and promoting better stability in preschool and child care placement by reducing expulsions and suspensions. A policy brief of results can be obtained online.