Panel: Using Better Data to Inform Implementation of Preschool At-Scale: The Role of Research-Practice Partnerships

Thursday, November 2, 2017: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Soldier Field (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  JoAnn Hsueh, MDRC
Panel Chairs:  Maia Connors, The Ounce of Prevention Fund
Discussants:  Sara Vecchiotti, Foundation for Child Development

Sustaining Impacts of High-Quality PreK through Third Grade: Lessons from a Partnership with the Boston Public School District
Meghan McCormick1, Christina Weiland2, JoAnn Hsueh1 and Jason Sachs3, (1)MDRC, (2)University of Michigan, (3)Boston Public Schools

Project SEED: A Case Study of a Researcher-Practitioner Partnership in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Anna Johnson1, Deborah Phillips1 and Cindy Decker2, (1)Georgetown University, (2)CAP Tulsa

Making Pre-K Count: How Research Data and Measures Supported New York City’s Scale-up of Universal Pre-K
Michelle Maier1, Shira Mattera1, Pamela Morris2 and Anne Kou1, (1)MDRC, (2)New York University

For the last decade, publicly funded preschool has been in the policy spotlight. Citing rigorous research on the positive impacts of early education for children, President Obama called for universal access to high-quality preschool for four year olds in his 2013 State of the Union address (The White House, 2013). Yet, as the federal government continues to debate how best to expand early education, states and cities have taken the lead in implementing local preschool programs at-scale. Three cities – Boston, Tulsa, and New York City – have emerged as leaders in this field, given their focus on expanding access to high-quality preschool programming, while also using research and data to inform decision-making. Moreover, programs in Boston (Weiland & Yoshikawa, 2013) and Tulsa (Gormley et al., 2015) have been rigorously evaluated and have been shown to benefit children’s early skills and reduce the magnitude of income-based achievement gaps.


Yet, these three cities have not rested on their laurels after achieving a given level of preschool expansion. Rather, they have identified a number of factors that they seek to understand and improve in order to build program effectiveness at-scale. Practitioners and policymakers in these cities have not always had the tools to accurately measure what is happening in their programs, and whether they observe changes in students’ outcomes as they move through schooling. As such, all three cities have built partnerships with research teams to help support rigorous measurement and use of data to improve decision making. The proposed panel will include presentations from each of these research-practice partnerships on how they have accomplished these goals.


First, the team from Boston will present information on how to build measures of program implementation and student outcomes in order to inform a study examining the long-term impacts of the Boston preschool program. Second, the Tulsa group will present data from a new initiative to measure instructional and non-instructional processes in preschool settings. This effort aims to support district decision-making and help sustain early effects of preschool into later grades. Finally, a team working with New York City will present on how they used data collected in a large-scale randomized trial of a preschool math curriculum to measure instructional content and improve the city’s ability to monitor program effectiveness.


To conclude, Sara Vecchiotti, the Chief Program Officer at the Foundation for Child Development (FCD), will discuss the papers and the role of research-practice partnerships in efforts to expand high-quality early childhood education across the country. She will also touch on FCD’s current work to build an early learning research network in New York City that can improve implementation of preschool programming at-scale. Taken together, these papers and discussion directly align with the APPAM conference theme “Measurement Matters: Better Data for Better Decisions” and will serve to advance continued scholarship and discussion on how to effectively use rigorous measurement and research to inform decision-making in real-world policy contexts.

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