Early Learning Ohio

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Take a look at one of our ongoing projects which is looking deeply into a child’s social and learning experiences with peers from preschool through third grade.

Early Learning Ohio (ELO) focuses on classroom ecology and its relation to children’s learning, achievement, and social development during the first five years of schooling, from pre-k through third grade. The primary purpose is to identify factors within classroom ecology associated with student outcomes and examine educational policies and practices that shape those factors.

About the Project

In 2016, the Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Research, together with the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, awarded $26 million in grants for the creation of the Early Learning Network. The goal? To create a research network to develop reliable information and useful tools to improve early childhood education across the country. Grantees are conducting work over a five-year span at major universities around the country, including The Ohio State University.
Crane Center’s Early Learning Network research team is conducting three interconnected research studies in Ohio as a part of the project ELO: Critical Contributions of Classroom Ecology to Children’s Learning. Specifically, the research studies focus on:

    1. policy and practice through interviewing district and non-district stakeholders to look at statewide policies and practices that support pre-K to third-grade learning and school achievement,
    2. observational study on classroom ecologies that include 149 classrooms ranging from kindergarten to third grade and 47 preschool classrooms, and
    3. a longitudinal study following 801 students from kindergarten to third grade.

The ELO team is uniquely focused on students’ social and learning experiences with peers — a major dimension of classroom ecology that can have long-lasting impacts on students’ academic life and psychological well-being. They are examining how the social network changes over time, as well as centralization (i.e. social network hierarchy) and density (interconnectivity of the network).

There are studies that have shown that preschool matters and when kids attend pre-k, they start kindergarten ready to learn. But these impacts of pre-k fade away quickly (convergence), so we need to look really in-depth at the nuanced experiences that kids are having in pre-k and elementary school to understand the convergence.

The data that we’re collecting runs deeps. On top of observing classrooms, we ask children about their peer relationships and perspectives on the classroom. This will allow us to unpack why the positive effects of preschool tend to fade out, and we will be looking at convergence between preschool attenders and non-attenders. The goal is to better allow elementary schools to capitalize on the advantages provided by preschool in the future.

– Dr. Kelly Purtell, Crane faculty associate and assistant professor of Human Sciences Administration in OSU’s College of Education and Human Ecology

The ELO project currently has three years of classroom network data and will continue to collect additional data over the next two years in order to contribute to the Early Learning Network’s collective goal to better understand how policies and practices influence children’s ability to maintain early learning success and narrow the achievement gap.