EDC’s Center for Children & Families (CC&F) is the recipient of two new grants that focus on improving the quality of teaching and professional development for early childhood educators. The awards, which total about $4 million, were issued to EDC by the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the Department of Education. The grants will fund two areas of research, science education and literacy and language.
“America is facing a literacy crisis,” says Joanne Brady, director of CC&F. “Poor children are particularly at risk, and gaps associated with socioeconomic and racial backgrounds are widening.” Improving childhood literacy and science understanding, notes Brady, will improve children’s school success and their long-term career prospects.
The multi-year projects will use rigorous research methods to examine the impact of professional development on both teachers’ practices and children’s learning.
Science and literacy interlock, says EDC’s Nancy Clark-Chiarelli, EdD, principal investigator for the projects. “Vocabulary development—featured in language and literacy—is strengthened by an understanding of science concepts, and vice versa.”
Language and Literacy
The language and literacy project will unfold in schools across West Virginia, where EDC researchers will examine the impact of two EDC-produced professional development approaches, the Literacy Environment Enrichment Program (LEEP), which features traditional face-to-face classes, and Technology-Enhanced Literacy Environment Enrichment Program (T-LEEP), which offers interactive television, Web-based instruction, and face-to-face classes. The study involves 110 preschool teachers and more than 1,100 four year olds. The children’s progress will be assessed by a variety of standardized tests, and teacher practices will be assessed through classroom observation.
Researching Science Education
The second area of work, in science education, will test EDC’s credit-bearing professional development program, Foundations of Science Literacy. Featuring instructional sessions and a mentoring component, the program will be offered in selected Head Start programs in Massachusetts. “We are responding to a critical need for empirical evidence on effective strategies to improve preschool science instruction,” says Clark-Chiarelli, who noted that improvement is most needed among English-language learners and low-income children. The programs participating in the study serve largely low-income populations with many English-language learners. A total of 72 teachers and 420 children will be involved.
Originally published on September 1, 2005