Early Childhood Research and Practice Collaborative

The Early Childhood Research and Practice Collaborative (the Collaborative) in the Academic Research Centers of NORC at the University of Chicago fosters research-practice partnerships that apply rigorous research/evaluation methods and the latest developmental science to support improvement efforts by early childhood educators in formal and informal learning environments, policymakers, and investigators. NORC experts provide knowledge, resources, analytics, and research to improve policies and practices that make early childhood care and education (ECE) more effective and equitable.

NORC staff affiliated with the Collaborative have a long history of working closely with practitioners and decision-makers to devise interventions to improve—and measures to assess—learning outcomes for the youngest learners. Staff design and conduct educational intervention, program, and process evaluations (including evaluations of federally- and privately-funded ECE programs); collect and analyze data to identify policy and practice levers for change; and devise, provide, and assess the impacts of professional development, training, and technical assistance programs for practitioners and educational researchers. Through all of its work, the Collaborative fosters connections among researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders. Staff share emerging results and robust summative findings in a variety of formats tailored for the information needs and decision-making processes of specific target audiences. All projects conducted by the Collaborative aim to directly or indirectly impact practices or policies intended to reduce SES-related achievement gaps at multiple points throughout early child development.

Projects conducted by the Collaborative incorporate a holistic view of development and focus not only children but the family, community, or educational (e.g., school, day care) contexts in which they grow and learn. We also approach our work from a cross-sector lens, often focusing on the intersection of education and health. Projects can include, but are not limited to, a focus on:

  • Effective teaching and family engagement practices
  • Development of assessment tools and evaluations of their use
  • The conditions necessary to improve implementation of policies and practices
  • Long-term efforts to support development beyond early childhood into early adulthood through a series of programs and supports

The Collaborative provides multi-disciplinary learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate student research assistants enrolled in masters and doctoral programs of study in a range of University of Chicago schools and programs, including developmental psychology, comparative human development, education, statistics, social work, and public policy.

NORC’s Early Childhood Research and Practice Collaborative provides the following primary services to our Collaborative partners:

  • Consultation on organizational strategic planning, program implementation, mixed-methods evaluation, analytics, and data interpretation based on our expertise of ECE and child development
  • Quick turn-around, small-scale research and analysis projects
  • Local needs assessments based on surveys and secondary data analysis
  • Facilitation of agenda-driven collaboration among early childhood researchers, practitioners, stakeholders, and policy makers
  • Dissemination of findings through multiple avenues, tailored to diverse audiences