Dr. Christina Weiland (PI) and Dr. Deborah Ball (co-PI) have been awarded a grant by MDRC and the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences. This project is a collaboration between MDRC, Harvard University, the Boston Public Schools, and the University of Michigan. This grant is part of IES’s new Early Learning Network, a $26-million effort to develop reliable information and useful tools to improve early childhood education across the country. The University of Michigan is one of five Early Learning Network (ELN) research teams. Our research site is the Boston Public Schools (BPS). In close collaboration with BPS staff and with other teams in the ELN, we will undertake three studies, all of which focus on children’s preschool to third grade experiences and align with the ELN’s goals. The BPS is at the forefront of city-wide efforts to 1) teach students rich content; 2) align curricula across grades and from home to school; and 3) foster the unconstrained language, literacy, and mathematics skills that will support children’s cognitive gains in the short and long-term. Our first study will comprehensively assess district-wide policies and practices that support efforts to achieve the BPS’ goals. The second study then examines whether intended changes related to classroom processes and features are indeed associated with gains for children across the year. And finally, in order to consider children’s development over time, we will engage in a longitudinal study to examine the malleable factors that are associated with children’s developmental trajectories. Findings will provide needed information to policymakers in Boston and other cities on the key factors that are critical to implementing new and innovative systems in preschool and early elementary school. In addition, study results will identify which classroom level factors and features translate into developmental outcomes for students. Findings will inform schools on how to adjust key malleable factors – at the classroom and school level – in future improvement efforts.
In addition to Drs. Weiland and Ball, the study team includes JoAnn Hsueh, MDRC; Catherine Snow, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Jason Sachs, Boston Public Schools; Nonie Lesaux, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Meghan McCormick, MDRC; Michelle Maier, MDRC; and Nicole Leacock, MDRC.