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Early Childhood

Early Childhood Policy Research

Mathematica evaluates programs designed to improve the well-being of young children and their families, particularly those at greatest risk in our society. The projects reviewed here illustrate the diversity of themes we address, the range of clients we serve, and the breadth of our early childhood and family research. Read more about our work in the early childhood area.


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FACES 2009 Data Tables and Report

image of young boy "Getting Ready for Kindergarten: Children’s Progress During Head Start." This report describes the cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development of children who take part in the Head Start program. Focusing on children who first entered Head Start in fall 2009 and completed one or two years of the program before starting kindergarten, the authors examined progress in children’s outcomes between Head Start entry and exit. Data for the report come from the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES), a periodic longitudinal study of Head Start funded by the Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation in the Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Data tables. Fact sheet.

Does High Quality Early Care and Education Link to Stronger Child Outcomes?

photo of toddler Mathematica is exploring the associations between quality and outcomes, examining whether certain thresholds of quality or dosage need to be met, or particular aspects of quality need to be present, before linkages appear. Read about the study.

  • "Getting Ready for Kindergarten: Children's Progress During Head Start. FACES 2009 Report." Nikki Aikens, Ashley Kopack Klein, Louisa Tarullo, and Jerry West, June 2013. This report describes the cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development of children who take part in the Head Start program. Focusing on children who first entered Head Start in fall 2009 and completed one or two years of the program before starting kindergarten, the authors examined progress in children’s outcomes between Head Start entry and exit. Data for the report come from the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES), a periodic longitudinal study of Head Start funded by the Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation in the Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Data tables. Fact sheet.
  • "Child Outcomes and Classroom Quality in FACES 2009." Emily Moiduddin, Nikki Aikens, Louisa Tarullo, Jerry West, and Yange Xue, September 2012. This report provides insight into the demographics of Head Start children and families; children's cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development and health during a year in the program; and key attributes of Head Start classrooms and programs for children who entered Head Start for the first time in fall 2009 and completed a year in the program in spring 2010. Data for the report are drawn from the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES), a periodic, longitudinal study of Head Start funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families. Data tables.
  • "Replicating Home Visiting Programs with Fidelity: Baseline Data and Preliminary Findings." Deborah Daro, Bonnie Hart, Kimberly Boller, and M.C. Bradley, December 2012. This report describes the fidelity measurement framework adopted by the cross-site evaluation team and early fidelity outcomes for 44 agencies implementing home visiting services as part of the initiative.
  • "Evidence-Based Home Visiting Systems Evaluation Update: Infrastructure-Building Plans and Activities in 2011." Diane Paulsell, Margaret Hargreaves, Brandon Coffee-Borden, and Kimberly Boller, December 2012. This report provides a snapshot of subcontractors' plans for achieving targeted outcomes and activities that support development of infrastructure to implement with fidelity, scale up, and sustain evidence-based home visiting programs during year three of the initiative.
  • "Effective Evaluation of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems for Early Care and Education and School-Age Care." Gail Zellman, Richard Brandon, Kimberly Boller, and J. Lee Kreader, June 2011. This brief presents basic evaluation concepts for child care Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRISs), useful tools for determining the appropriate design and timing of an evaluation, and evaluation references and resources for those who wish to learn more.
  • "Effectiveness of Home Visiting in Inproving Child Health and Reducing Child Maltreatment." Sarah A. Avellar and Lauren H. Supplee. Pediatrics, November 2013 (subscription required). This article found existing rigorous research indicates that home visiting programs serving at-risk pregnant women and children from birth to age 5 have the potential for positive results on these families, particularly on health care usage and child development.
  • "Evaluating Infrastructure Development in Complex Home Visiting Systems." Margaret Hargreaves, Russell Cole, Brandon Coffee-Borden, Diane Paulsell, and Kimberly Boller. American Journal of Evaluation, June 2013 (subscription required). This article outlines a mixed methods approach to systems change evaluation and offers a case study of how this approach has been used to evaluate the development of system infrastructure supporting the implementation, spread, and sustainability of evidence-based home visiting projects. The approach combined systems concepts (boundaries, relationships, perspectives, ecological levels, and dynamics) and qualitative methods (project site visits, telephone interviews, reviews of project documents, and logic models) with quantitative methods (a web-based partner survey to measure the projects' system properties and contextual dynamics) to assess how these system factors were associated with the projects' infrastructure development.
  • "Measuring Quality and Using It to Improve Practice and Policy in Early Childhood Development." Pia Rebello Britto, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, and Kimberly Boller. Early Childhood Matters, November 2011.This article in the Bernard van Leer Foundation's international journal proposes a framework for conceptualizing and measuring the quality of early childhood programs in global contexts and makes recommendations for how policymakers, practitioners, and researchers can work together to improve quality. This article is a précis of a Society for Research in Child Development social policy report and issue brief on these topics.
  • "Trajectories of the Home Learning Environment Across the First 5 Years: Associations with Children's Vocabulary and Literacy Skills at Prekindergarten." Eileen T. Rodriguez and Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Child Development, June 2011 (published online ahead of print). This article examined home learning environments in a sample of 1,852 low-income families and their children at ages 1, 2, 3, and 5 years. The study found enriched learning experiences as early as 15 months are important to children's vocabulary growth and provide a foundation for children's later school success.
  • "Measuring Implementation of Early Childhood Interventions at Multiple System Levels." Research Brief. Diane Paulsell, Ann M. Berghout, and Maegan Lokteff, April 2013. To ensure implementation of early childhood interventions with fidelity, implementation strategies must be aligned and coordinated across system levels. This brief introduces the importance of measuring implementation at multiple system levels and proposes tools for doing so.
  • "Intervention Dosage in Early Childhood Care and Education: It's Complicated." Research Brief. Barbara A. Wasik, Shira Kolnik Mattera, Chrishana M. Lloyd, and Kimberly Boller, April 2013. Dosage, or the amount of intervention delivered, is an important factor in understanding implementation. This brief for researchers and practitioners aims to help establish a common language for communication of findings.
  • "Quality Support Coaching at LAUP." Research brief. Lauren Akers, Sally Atkins-Burnett, Emily Moididdin, Pam Winston, Artineh Samkian, and Sharon Murphy, September 2012. This study found that the key components of the Los Angeles Universal Preschool's quality support coaching model include: (1) research and evidence-based practices by experienced and committed coaches; (2) support, such as positive and collaborative relationships and observation of instruction with feedback loops; and (3) outcomes associated in the literature with improved quality, such as motivation for improving quality and reflective practice. The model followed some of the best practices of effective coaching models, namely a strong emphasis on the coach-provider relationship and active engagement of providers in developing their own knowledge and practices. Baseline findings. Full report.
  • "Instructional Practices That Support ELL Children in Los Angeles Universal Preschool Classrooms." Research Brief. Sally Atkins-Burnett, Emily Moiduddin, Nikki Aikens, Yange Xue, Artineh Samkian, and Sharon Murphy, March 2012. This research brief describes instructional practices that support English language learners and presents findings on how those practices are applied in Los Angeles Universal preschool center-based classrooms and family child care programs.
  • "Children's Progress During the 2010-2011 LAUP Year." Research brief. Yange Xue, Sally Atkins-Burnett, Emily Moiduddin, Sharon Murphy, and Artineh Samkian, May 2012. This issue brief describes children's development in the Los Angeles Universal Preschool program during 2010–2011. English-proficient students showed significant growth in early literacy skills from fall to spring, with their mean scores exceeding the national average. However, their vocabulary concepts and math skills were below the national average in spring. Language and math skills for English language learners continued to be below the national average, but literacy skills approached the national mean by spring 2011. At that time, the percentage of children scoring in the expected range exceeded the national average for attention, activity level, and sociability.
  • "Supporting Home Visitors in Evidence-Based Programs: Experience of EBHV Grantees." Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment, Brief #4. Brandon Coffee-Borden and Diane Paulsell, December 2010. This brief summarizes lessons about supervising and supporting home visitors in evidence-based home visiting programs. Topics include steps to cultivate organizational support for evidence-based home visiting programs, methods to address internal staff concerns about these programs, benefits of evidence-based models’ approaches to home visitor supervision, and the need to provide home visitors with resources and knowledge through community partnerships.
  • "Replicating Evidence-Based Home Visiting Models: A Framework for Assessing Fidelity." Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment, Brief #3. Deborah Daro (Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago), December 2010. This brief presents a system to monitor fidelity in evidence-based infant and early childhood home visiting programs. Topics addressed include defining fidelity and its impact on program outcomes; assessing fidelity during initial and ongoing program implementation; and selecting program level, provider level, service delivery, and participant level indicators to obtain a comprehensive view of fidelity.
  • "Recruiting and Training Home Visitors for Evidence-Based Home Visiting (EBHV): Experience of EBHV Grantees." Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment, Brief #2. Brandon Coffee-Borden and Diane Paulsell, October 2010. This brief summarizes lessons about recruiting and training home visitors for evidence-based programs from grantees participating in the Children’s Bureau’s Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment grantee cluster. Key challenges include locating candidates that understand the demands and responsibilities of home visitation, hiring home visitors that can serve families that are culturally and linguistically diverse, and understanding that training about the community and target population complements training provided by the evidence-based model.
  • Two briefs on the Seeds to Success Modified Field Test, a voluntary child care quality rating and improvement system to improve the quality of child care in Washington State, are available.

    "The Seeds to Success Modified Field Test: Implementation Lessons." Patricia Del Grosso, Kristin Hallgren, Diane Paulsell, and Kimberly Boller, July 2010. This brief highlights key findings on whether the coaching model and financial incentives implemented affect quality of services participating child care businesses provide.

    "The Seeds to Success Modified Field Test: Impact Evaluation Findings." Kimberly Boller, Randall Blair, Patricia Del Grosso, and Diane Paulsell, July 2010. This brief highlights key findings on whether the coaching model and financial incentives implemented affect quality of services provided by participating child care businesses.

  • "Assessing the Need for Evidence-Based Home Visiting (EBHV): Experience of EBHV Grantees." Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment, Brief #1. Diane Paulsell and Brandon Coffee-Borden, July 2010. This issue brief provides information about how grantees participating in the Children’s Bureau’s Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting (EBHV) to Prevent Child Maltreatment grantee cluster prepared and planned needs assessments and collected data. It also describes facilitators and barriers to carrying out the assessments and provides lessons learned by grantees. This information may be useful to states as they plan needs assessments required by the new Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program.
  • "Quality of Early Childhood Development Programs in Global Contexts: Rationale for Investment, Conceptual Framework and Implications for Equity." Pia Rebello Britto, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, and Kimberly Boller, April 2011. Early childhood development programs—which often involve the health, education, child welfare, and other sectors—are of great interest to policymakers, service providers, and families around the globe. This paper proposes that equity in access and quality are critical to effect sustainable and meaningful change in these programs in developing countries. The paper conceptualizes quality across settings and systems and identifies implications for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers on how they can work together to measure, improve, and sustain quality. Issue Brief: "Early Childhood Development Programs In Global Contexts: Improving Quality."
  • Mathematica authors contributed to two chapters in a new book, Quality Measurement in Early Childhood Settings, edited by Martha Zaslow, Ivelisse Martinez-Beck, Kathryn Tout, and Tamara Halle, 2011:
  • "Measuring the Quality of Early Childhood Math and Science Curricula and Teaching." Kimberly Brenneman, Kimberly Boller, Sally Atkins-Burnett, Deborah Stipek, Nicole D. Forry, Barbrina B. Ertle, Lucia French, Herbert P. Ginsburg, Ellen Frede, and Thomas Schultz. This chapter reviews instructional and child care quality measures in mathematics, science, and general cognition and finds few measures that focus on these areas. More investment is needed in developing content-specific and global quality measures to assess supports for early math and science learning, to help guide the field and improve curricula and instruction.

  • "Family-Sensitive Caregiving: A Key Component of Quality in Early Care and Education Arrangements." Juliet Bromer, Diane Paulsell, Toni Porter, Julia R. Henly, Dawn Ramsburg, Roberta B. Weber, and Families and Quality Workgroup Members.  Drawing on research about working families and literature from Head Start, family support, and home visitation programs, this chapter presents a model for conceptualizing and measuring quality in early care and education settings, focusing on the sensitivity of providers toward families of children in care.

Society for Research in Child Development Special Topic MeetingStrengthening Connections Among Child and Family Research, Policy and Practice—Alexandria, VA—April 3-5, 2014

Child Care Aware® of America's Symposium—Washington, DC—April 2-4, 2014
Diane Paulsell and Others: Using Research to Support Policy Decisions on Behalf of Young Children

National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs—Washington, DC—January 29, 2014
Kimberly Boller, Heather Zaveri, and Others: "Making Replication Work: Building Infrastructure to Implement, Scale Up, and Sustain Evidence-Based Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs"

Head Start National Birth to Five Leadership InstituteData Driven Leadership: Your Role in School Readiness—National Harbor, MD—April 28-30, 2013
Louisa Tarullo, Nikki Aikens, Cheri Vogel, and Kimberly Boller: "Learning from National Research: Informing and Refining Practice in Head Start and Early Head Start Programs"

Society for Research in Child Development—Seattle, WA—April 18-20, 2013

Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) Webinar—Validating Quality Rating and Improvement Systems—March 15, 2012
Kimberly Boller, Participant

"Effectively Using QRIS Data and Research to Inform Program Design and Management: Sharing New Tools and State Experiences"—Webinar—Center for Improving Research Evidence—November 10, 2011
Presenters: Kimberly Boller, Julieta Lugo-Gil, and others