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Early Childhood Education Institute Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, The University of Oklahoma - Tulsa website wordmark
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ECEI's History

A young boy is crawling on a sidewalk.

The Early Years


The Early Childhood Education Institute didn’t become one of the leading early education research groups in the country overnight. The Institute was founded in 2006 when Dr. Diane Horm was personally recruited by George Kaiser for the position of George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Professor at the University of Oklahoma–Tulsa. The goal for the position at that time was twofold: to partner with Tulsa Educare and CAP Tulsa’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs to conduct applied research aimed at maximizing services for young children, birth through age 5, and their families; and to work with Tulsa Community College and other OU faculty to launch a bachelor’s completion program in early childhood education at OU-Tulsa. Dr. Horm recruited researchers and faculty to partner with OU-Tulsa, began hiring staff,  and within five years, the ECEI was working on various evaluation projects, including contracts with Smart Start Oklahoma and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the UNC-Chapel Hill, in addition to ongoing projects with Tulsa Educare and CAP Tulsa. A national Randomized Control Trial to study the long-term effects of the Educare model was added in 2011, and we recently completed that study in 2021.

During our first decade, we went through Strategic Planning twice, were named as an OU University Strategic Organization (USO) in 2011, formed an Advisory Board, hired senior researchers and post-docs, added Research Fellows and Affiliated Faculty, and began expanding our physical presence on the Tulsa campus. The University supported our growth by renovating space to provide new offices, a conference room, and research rooms facilitating observational and interview research with young children and their families. We hosted the “Early Childhood Leadership Institute” beginning in 2008 to focus on issues impacting early childhood program leaders, administrators, and policy makers in the state. We launched our first website in 2014 and celebrated our tenth anniversary in 2016.

Looking Ahead


We’ve continued our growth over time, adding new evaluation projects, applying for federal and state funding, and publishing numerous peer-reviewed and practitioner articles and books. We continue to be the Local Evaluation Partner for Tulsa Educare, evaluate CAP Tulsa’s programs along with the Oklahoma Early Childhood Program (OECP), and have added additional research studies that increase the knowledge base about young children and their development in ECE programs. We launched our largest study to date, the SEED (School Experiences and Early Development) Study in 2016 in partnership with researchers at Georgetown and Harvard Universities.