07:46 AM

​Ohio State part of national project to improve early education

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A team of researchers from The Ohio State University has received a $4.5 million federal grant as part of a national effort to improve early childhood education across the country.

In all, the federal Institute of Education Sciences is distributing $26 million in grants to establish the new Early Learning Network.

Ohio State’s research team, from the College of Education and Human Ecology, will focus on the role of “classroom ecology” in children’s learning, said Laura Justice, leader of the project and professor of teaching and learning.

“Classroom ecology involves every aspect of the classroom experience and how it affects students’ learning and development,” Justice said.

“We’re looking very deeply and broadly at what happens inside classrooms for children from preschool through third grade.”

That includes not only factors like student ability and relationships with teachers, but also the social status of students – whether they are popular with others or feel victimized.

“There are a lot of factors that go into student success in the classroom and we need to more thoroughly identify those factors and what we can do to ensure that all children get the classroom experience that will help them in the long term,” Justice said.

In addition, the Ohio State team will conduct a statewide analysis of policies and procedures that affect classroom ecology. For example, some school districts give parents choices in which school their children will attend and that could have a major impact on classroom ecology, she said.

The study will last five years.

“In the end, we hope to come up with clear guidance to policymakers and practitioners about how to design classroom ecologies that will give children the most benefit,” Justice said.

Other Ohio State investigators on the project, all from the College of Education and Human Ecology, are Kelly Purtell, Jessica Logan, Tzu-Jung Lin, Millie Gort and Richard Lomax.

Other Early Learning Network grants went to the University of Nebraska; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the University of California, Irvine; the University of Virginia; and MDRC, a policy research center.