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Fall 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.

anabel and lukas


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.”


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


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


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

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