Current Projects

Literacy Development and Middle-School Classroom Conversations

This study describes the middle-school classroom language environment and how its different features influence the literacy outcomes of linguistically diverse youth


The research team uses multiple methods and data sources to assess the classroom environment and student growth. As part of the study, there are videotaped observations of the classrooms five times during the academic year, focused on teachers’ speech. A sample of language minority and English-only students from each classroom wear recording devices that collect audio recordings of formal and informal interactions with teachers and peers during the class period.

Participants Forty 6th-grade English Language Arts classrooms from the Chicago and Boston areas (20 from each area); approximately 1,200 students and their teachers.

By understanding the characteristics of classroom talk that benefit student learning, and that may mediate the effectiveness of classroom-level interventions, we can be more precise in designing classroom interventions and educator professional development targeting classroom talk. 

Funded by the William T. Grant Foundation

ExCEL P-3: Sustaining Gains from Preschool to Third Grade

This study identifies policies, classroom-level factors, and school experiences that are associated with children's school success during preschool and the early elementary school grades. 


This six-year study examines the hypothesis that the longer-term benefits of preschool interventions can be sustained by improving instructional alignment between preschool and early elementary school.  Children entered the study in prekindergarten and will be followed through the end of third grade. Each year, information is gathered on children’s skills, classroom quality, and fidelity to the aligned curriculum.  

Participants300 preschool children, attending 20 different schools, as well as their parents and teachers.

This study provides insights into the most effective ways to sustain longer-term preschool impacts.  Results will inform policy and practice at a time of increased investment in early childhood education. 

Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences; Conducted in Partnership with MDRC, the University of Michigan, and Boston Public Schools

Cognitive, Social-Emotional, and Reading Development

This study explores the relationships among executive function, self-regulation, and early literacy skills for young language minority learners and their English-only classroom peers.  Additional waves of data were collected when children were in kindergarten and first grade, shedding light on how the relationships among these skills advance over time. 


Children entered the study in prekindergarten and were followed through the end of first grade. Each year, we assessed children’s vocabulary knowledge, early reading skills, expressive language skills, executive functioning, and self-regulation.

Participants 244 preschool-aged linguistically diverse children growing up in poverty, who attended early education and care settings as preschoolers. 

This study provides insight into the multi-dimensionality of children’s early learning and development.  Better understanding how cognitive, academic, and social-emotional skills influence one another will allow researchers and educators to design more effective prevention models.  Such models could simultaneously match the learning profiles of today’s increasingly diverse student population, and attend to multiple aspects of development while addressing literacy skills.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Driving Innovation in Early Childhood Policy and Practice

This project works to improve outcomes for PreK children via an intentional focus on strengthening early educators’ capacities in classrooms.  Specifically, the project looks at preventing unhealthy levels of classroom stress and promoting pro-social, emotionally supportive, and cognitively rigorous learning environments.


Early educators participated in site-based, intensive, and ongoing professional learning. The capacity-building program included: (1) center-based, weekly, 1-hour professional learning community (PLC) sessions at their centers, which involved discussions anchored in case studies, reflective exercises, and the co-construction of professional practices; (2) follow-up, classroom-based coaching sessions, during which teachers applied and reflected on new practices.


Early educators working in high-poverty contexts, and the children they serve.  


This project provides the field with a set of strategies for strengthening professional development for early educators working with vulnerable populations.  These strategies support adults to cultivate cognitively stimulating and emotionally responsive learning environments, benefiting both teachers and students.  

Funded by the Barr Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation