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Early Childhood Education Institute at OU-Tulsa Completes Follow-Up Study on High Quality Early Care and Education

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December 19, 2022

Early Childhood Education Institute at OU-Tulsa Completes Follow-Up Study on High Quality Early Care and Education

Smiling young boy and therapist sitting on floor and talking in school

A follow-up study conducted by the Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) at OU-Tulsa focused on extending the accepted conclusion that children at risk for educational failure who participate in high-quality early care and education (ECE) enter kindergarten “more ready,” and possess skills comparable to their more advantaged peers. This study investigated child outcomes, kindergarten through Grade 3, of 75 children randomly assigned as infants to either participate or not in a high-quality early care and education program – Tulsa Educare.  

In addition to the findings of positive child outcomes in early academic skills associated with earlier high-quality ECE attendance, this study also contributes information about the of impact of young children starting contemporary early childhood education programs in infancy.

Group Of Elementary Age Children In Art Class With Teacher

“Through this study, we wanted to investigate, using a rigorous randomized controlled trialapproach and longitudinal design, the short- and medium-term outcomes of participation in one contemporary model of high-quality ECE-Tulsa Educare,” said Dr. Diane Horm, ECEI Director and lead investigator of this study. “The focus of this report is on child outcomes, kindergarten through Grade 3, for a group of children who were randomly assigned to participate or not in Tulsa Educare as infants and experienced this high-quality ECE through their preschool years.” The central question was if the early gains the Educare children showed as preschoolers would continue through K and the elementary grades, or if “fade out” would happen with these children’s early boost leveling off or their peers who did not attend Educare catching up to them.  ECEI researchers focused on determining if the concurrent benefits associated with attending a high-quality ECE program demonstrated by the Educare students as preschoolers persisted through kindergarten and early elementary school. The students involved in this study included 38 girls and 37 boys from Tulsa and the surrounding area. 

From kindergarten to Grade 3, children who attended Tulsa Educare demonstrated higher skills in letter and word identification, vocabulary, oral comprehension, and math than their peers who had been randomly assigned to the control group. Results for executive functioning were mixed with children in the Tulsa Educare group showing higher skills on one of the two measures of executive function. No group differences were found for social-emotional skills. This study contributes to the literature of longitudinal studies spanning infancy through to Grade 3. 

“Thanks to local funding from the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), our researchers were able to continue to follow the children in this study through third grade,” Horm said. The length of this study, starting when the children were infants, and continuing until the end of their Grade 3 enrollment makes this study unique.  

A wide variety of data sources and perspectives were included in this study with data collected from children, parents, and teachers. The data included information about children’s early academic skills in literacy, language, and math and executive function collected through one-on-one administration of standardized tests. Direct child assessments occurred twice per year, every fall and spring, kindergarten through Grade 3. Parents were surveyed each spring, kindergarten through Grade 3, to collect information about the home, children’s activities, relationships between children and parents, and parental stress. Teachers completed surveys in the fall and spring each year to provide information about the children’s social-emotional development, behavior, and relationships at school. Classroom quality was observed and rated annually in the winter from kindergarten through Grade 3 for both the treatment and control group children. 

Click here to access the complete follow-up study. 

About ECEI: The Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) at OU-Tulsa is an applied research groupwith multiple ongoing projects designed to advance and support equity in early childhood programming and policies by generating and disseminating high-quality, meaningful research. This research is vital to the early childhood field to drive improvements in early childhood education and improve the lives of the children it serves.