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March 23, 2022

Big Idea Challenge Year One Update

Our Big Idea Challenge co-investigators Drs. Sherri Castle and Connie Chapple were featured in a recent Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships' newsletter. Their "Well-Being Across the Lifespan: Early Childhood Experiences and Opportunities in Oklahoma" is investigating adverse childhood experiences, food and child-care deserts, criminal justice contact, social isolation, mental illness, substance abuse disorders, and early mortality across Oklahoma with the goal of developing practice and policy solutions.

Drs. Castle and Chapple (along with their transdisciplinary team) recently completed the first year of the study and they have some updates for us. Check out the video update here.

February 11, 2022

Watch: Sherri Castle's Presentations to the NHSA

Dr. Sherri Castle recently led two presentations for the National Head Start Association’s “The What and Why of Child Assessments.”

The four-part webinar series was designed to provide a better understanding of the types of child assessments, why they are conducted, and how programs can choose the best assessments for them.

The webinar series is part of an effort from NHSA’s Senior Director of Data, Victoria Jones. As she points out here, Head Start Program Performance Standards require programs to use child assessments but they don’t require or recommend any specific tools. That often means educators are responsible for choosing, administering, interpreting, and using the results of child assessments.

Castle said that a lot of programs will use the same assessment but will use it in ways that are outside the boundaries of what that data will support.

“These webinars let us provide technical information to help these programs equip themselves to make the best decisions to support children,” she said

Session 1 – Child Assessments in Early Head Start

Session 2 – Child Assessments in Head Start

anabel and lukas

August 16, 2021

Meet Our New Postdocs

Anabel Castillo brings a unique perspective to her role as one of the ECEI’s new Postdoctoral Fellows.

As child growing up in a small rural California town, she attended a Head Start program and her mom would later become a teacher in a Head Start classroom.

Castillo credits the program for both her own academic success and her mother’s.

“I feel like Head Start helped my parents with the resources to help with stress and nutrition and resources for physical activity,” she said. “All of those resources helped then shape my academic trajectory and propel my outcomes.”

Castillo, a graduate of the University of California, Merced, will spend the next year working with ECEI and focusing on her research.

“My long-term end goal is to help foster parents’ confidence to help them be partners with their teachers and work together to better impact their children’s lives,” she said.

Castillo is joined by Lukas Lopez, who will also be working as a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Institute.

Lopez, also a UC-Merced graduate, earned his undergraduate degree from San Diego State University, where he went to play football.

After the first year he traded in his pads to become a research assistant and then lab manager of an infant and child development lab located on the campus.

His previous developmental psychology research was focused on smaller data sets. Working with the ECEI will allow him to take a more macro approach by looking at family structures and socioeconomic status, and education and care opportunities.

“All these things are pressures that are influencing the time parents get to spend with their kids to teach them language or to teach them about the world,” he said. “It’s important to look at these different factors that are influencing child development over time as kids mature.”


June 2, 2021

Frechette Selected to Participate in National STEM Program

Dr. Liz Frechette, ECEI’s post doctoral fellow, will be part of the 2021 cohort of the National Science Foundation Quantitative Research Methods for STEM Education Scholars Program.

She is one of 20 scholars selected to participate in the year-long program that will include a virtual Summer Institute and multiple workshops each month.

Participants are paired with quantitative mentors to help develop their skills in design, measurement, and analysis. Participants will design and implement a study that they will present at the end of the year.

“I am so excited for what this opportunity means for Liz as well as for the ECEI,” said Sherri Castle, ECEI assistant director of research. “She will receive specialized training to enhance her methodological and analysis skills and also expand her network of scholars and mentors who study STEM education with rigorous approaches. This program will be a real boost to her and the ECEI’s continued development.”

The scholars program, funded by the National Science Foundation and offered through the University of Maryland, College Park, is aimed at building capacity in STEM education research.

All program participants have a research focus related to issues of access and equity of underrepresented populations in STEM within either pre-K through 12 or post-secondary settings.

March 4, 2021

Two ECEI researchers receive national recognition for their work

Please join us in recognizing our research team for their tireless efforts to drive advancements in early childhood education.

Last month, two of our researchers were recognized nationally for their contributions to the field of early childhood research while several others had their work highlighted at national conferences.

Shinyoung Jeon receives early career award from AERA

Dr. Shinyoung Jeon, our senior research and policy associate, received the American Education Research Association’s Early Education and Child Development Special Interest Group 2021 Early Career Award.

The award is given annually to an individual with an early and promising record as a researcher and scholar in the early childhood field.

Jeon’s work is primarily focused on three areas: longitudinal developmental trajectories of children from low-income families with a focus on resilience; impacts of early education intervention programs on developmental outcomes of children from low-income families; and teacher-parent partnerships and family engagement in early care and education.

She has published 16 peer-reviewed articles in top-tier journals and given more than 30 presentations since 2017.

Sherri Castle receives national award for dissertation

Our Assistant Director of Research, Dr. Sherri Castle, was named the American Education Research Association’s 2021 Early Education/Child Development SIG Outstanding Dissertation Award winner.

The award recognizes dissertations of exceptional merit that relate to the development of children between birth and age 8, including studies focused on families, teachers, and others who care for and educate young children.

The selection committee commented: “We had many strong applicants, but we were very impressed with (this) work and its implications in the field.”

Castle’s dissertation, titled “Children’s individual experiences with teachers: Precursors and associated outcomes,” focused on understanding the experiences of individual children in early education classrooms. Her finding that children who enter preschool with lower academic and self-regulation skills tend to experience less closeness and more conflict with teachers provides important insight that the very kids who need the most positive experiences with teachers may be least likely to get the types of interactions needed to support their already lagging development.

July 17, 2020

ECEI Participates in Learning Sessions on Anti-Racism

Last month, when the ECEI joined the chorus of voices calling for change and declaring that “Black Lives Matter,” we pledged to begin working toward rooting out systemic racism, bias, and injustice.

As part of that effort, our full staff recently wrapped up a series of three study-and-share sessions on becoming an anti-racist workplace. The sessions provided our team with foundational knowledge regarding the ways that anti-Black racism shows up in our own thinking as well as in our society.

The interactive sessions concluded with each team member making an individual commitment to take action in the next month to continue their journey towards being anti-racist.

The anti-racism workgroup that led the first initiative is seeking input from team members and leaders at OU to lay out a plan for a review of current ECEI structures and systems to identify and correct items that may be inadvertently manifesting systemic racism in the workplace.

The ECEI’s Equity workgroup also continues to prepare a series of sessions for our team that will be held throughout the 2020-21 academic year to consider how the ECEI’s research intersects with social inequities by race, ethnicity, home language, immigration status, poverty, geography, and disability.

September 20, 2018

ECEI Receives NIH Grant with Georgetown to Extend Pre-K Study

OU-Tulsa’s Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI), an applied research group focused on advancing the quality of early childhood education, has received a $2.7 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to extend work with researchers from Georgetown University.

With the study’s long-term focus (following children from age 3 through 4th grade), its depth (data collected from children, classrooms, teachers, parents, administrators, and health providers) as well its sources (multiple methods used across various early childhood settings) — this study is the among the most comprehensive contemporary longitudinal study of public pre-K and its associations with children's outcomes through elementary school.
This new award will allow researchers to follow the participants who are now in kindergarten for 5 years (until 2023). The longitudinal study will examine the processes in preschool through 4th grade classrooms that support children’s self-regulatory skills — skills that underlie children’s academic success and relate to their overall health. The study, titled SEED (School Experiences and Early Development), began following approximately 650 three-year-olds from Educare, CAP-Tulsa, and community childcare programs in fall 2016. Funds from NIH will allow expansion of the sample size, duration, and depth of the study.

To read more about this award, please click here

Winter 2018

ECEI featured in Sooner Magazine

The Winter 2018 edition of the Sooner Magazine includes an article about how the Early Childhood Education Institute at OU-Tulsa has changed the field of Early Childhood. Read about the Institute's history, its growth through the years, and its continued influential reach.

To read the full article, click here

August 27, 2017

Tulsa World: Tulsa known as 'magical' place for early education research

Tulsa’s national reputation for offering innovative early childhood education programs has attracted another long-term study to see what exactly makes these classrooms so effective.

Researchers from Georgetown and Harvard universities are partnering with the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa’s Early Childhood Education Institute to take the next step in understanding why pre-K programs work.

The project is expected to add a significant layer to the burgeoning field of early education research, adding data and analysis based on classroom observations, teacher feedback and questionnaire responses provided by parents and children.

Read the full Tulsa World article here

March 14, 2017

Tulsa World: Tulsa Early Childhood Advocates to Testify Before Congress

Representatives from CAP-Tulsa and the George Kaiser Family Foundation will represent Tulsa this week at a congressional hearing (the House Committee on Appropriations).   The ECEI is proud to be a long-time partner with both CAP-Tulsa and Educare as we impact the lives of young children and families in Tulsa and Oklahoma.    

Read the full Tulsa World article here

March 9, 2017

ECE Scholars Grantee Meeting

Group photo of recent meeting of Child Care and Head Start Graduate Student Research Scholars and their faculty members in Washington, DC.  Emisha Pickens-Young, Ph.D. Candidate and ECEI Project Director, fourth from the left in the front row, and Dr. Horm, 3rd from the left in the back row, attended this meeting with promising young scholars and potential research collaborators from across the country.

February 8, 2017

One Year of High Quality Early Education Improves Outcomes for Low-Income Infants & Toddlers

Fewer than half of children from low-income families are considered ready for school at age 5.  Since 85% of brain development occurs by age three, early child education is vital to a child’s future success in school.

A new study by OU-Tulsa and four other universities have found that infants and toddlers from low-income families who attended a high-quality, center-based early education program do better in language and social skills after only one year than children who do not attend the program.  Participants were assessed after one year of attending Educare sites in four cities, including Tulsa Educare.  Children who participated had better language skills, fewer problem behaviors, and more positive interactions with their parents than children who didn’t participate in a program.

The study appears in the journal Child Development.  It is based on research conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Chicago, OU-Tulsa, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.   

“This study shows high-quality early childhood programming that starts in infancy makes a difference in the lives of young children who are growing up in poverty,” said Diane Horm, Ph.D., director of the OU-Tulsa Early Childhood Education Institute and principle investigator for the Tulsa site of the study.  “The achievement gap has been a critical problem and this study shows the power of starting in infancy and toddlerhood, and how it will set children on a path to short- and long-term success.”

Download the full press release here

December 30, 2016

OU-Tulsa Grad Student Receives Prestigious Early Education Grant

The power of a quality early education stuck with Emisha Pickens-Young, who has risen from being a child in a Head Start program to landing a highly competitive research grant in early education as a graduate student.

Pickens-Young, 41, a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, has been selected as one of six graduate students in the country — and first ever in Oklahoma — to receive the prestigious federal Head Start Graduate Student Research Grant, which is an award of about $25,000.

The grant will go toward her dissertation studying teaching teams at local Head Start and Early Head Start programs, specifically on how those teams affect classroom quality and child outcomes. Her findings are expected to be examined across the country because of a lack of data in the early childhood education research literature. Her focus is on how brain research connects to parenting styles.

“I want to be able to understand research in a practical, easy manner,” Pickens-Young said. “This grant will open opportunities to lead me in that direction. ... I want to see more information out there so parents can understand it.”

December 27, 2016

OU Celebrates 10 Years of its Early Childhood Education Institute

Ten years ago, Diane Horm was not looking for a job.

She was entering her 20th year of teaching at the University of Rhode Island. She was an associate dean with plans to build an addition onto her house. She was established in her career and social circle.

Yet, the calls to check out a new position as director of an early childhood institute at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa were too interesting to dismiss.

“Boy was I impressed,” Horm recalls. “Compared to Rhode Island, there was so much going on in early childhood here.”

Read the full Tulsa World article here

December 12, 2016

OU-Tulsa PhD Student Receives First Head Start Research Grant in Oklahoma

Emisha Pickens-Young, an OU-Tulsa PhD student, has been selected as one of only six doctoral students in the entire country — and the first ever in Oklahoma — to receive a prestigious and highly-competitive federal Head Start Graduate Student Research Grant.

Pickens-Young is earning a Doctorate in Instructional Leadership & Academic Curriculum in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at OU-Tulsa and works as a Project Director for the Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) also at OU-Tulsa.

“We knew Emisha’s unique experience of attending Head Start as a child and having worked as a Head Start teacher for more than six years made her an extremely strong candidate,” said Dr. Diane Horm, Director of the ECEI.  “She is a Head Start success story, and living Head Start’s mission of delivering high-quality early childhood education to children growing up in poverty gave her a unique vantage point.”  Pickens-Young was a lead preschool teacher, master teacher, and coach for new teachers at CAP-Tulsa’s Head Start for six and a half years.    

Download the full press release here

October 14, 2016

OU-Tulsa ECEI Partners with Georgetown & Harvard to Study Three-Year-Olds' Development

85% of brain development occurs by age three, making early child education vital to a child’s future success in school.  The OU-Tulsa Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI), a research-based institute studying young children ages birth to 8 in early childhood education programs, has been selected to work with researchers from Georgetown University and Harvard University on a new long-term study.

The study, titled SEED (School Experiences and Early Development), will follow approximately 900 three-year-olds from Educare, CAP-Tulsa, and community child-care programs from now through third grade.  The study will look at literacy, math skills, self-regulation executive function, and social-emotional development, especially as it applies to children from economically-disadvantaged households, dual-language learners, and those with special needs.  A combination of direct child assessments, teacher reports, classroom observations, and school district and program administrative data such as demographics will be used.

“Tulsa’s reputation as a leader in early childhood education and ECEI’s previous work created the opportunity for this high-profile partnership,” said Diane Horm, ECEI director and co-principal investigator on this project.  “Early childhood education is vital because it lays the foundation for all later learning and development.  We are thrilled Tulsa is on the cutting-edge of national research.”

Download the full press release here