Improving Caregiver Quality through Observation and Individualized Instructional Feedback

Project: Research project

Project Details


Numerous studies have documented the importance of high-quality early child care and education (ECE) for children’s academic and social-emotional development, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds (Duncan & Magnuson, 2013). In addition, there have been significant gains in defining child care quality – moving beyond structural elements of programs and focusing more on the quality of caregiver-child interactions and activities for fostering children’s development across various developmental domains. (Adams & Rohacek, 2002; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000; Pianta et al., 2005; Sabol, Soliday Hong, Pianta, & Burchinal, 2013). State agencies are using this knowledge base to build infrastructure for increasing ECE quality, including quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS), ECE workforce development supports, early learning standards, and kindergarten entry assessments. Despite these investments and the existing evidence of the impact of quality programs, rigorous empirical research demonstrating effective strategies for increasing ECE quality is limited – especially for light touch strategies aimed at increasing quality on a large scale. The proposed dissertation study will expand the research base regarding the effects of one particular ECE quality improvement strategy – providing individualized instructional feedback to ECE staff on the basis of classroom observations. This quality improvement strategy was initiated by the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness within the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Between 2008 and 2012, more than 1200 ECE staff received observation and written feedback reports regarding the quality of early language and literacy practices. Reports included Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO) ratings along with descriptive evidence statements for each element. To support interpretation of report data and development of action plans, ECE staff also received a guide for using the information to improve instructional practices, a link to a self-reflection tool, and an invitation to attend data use trainings. Change in instructional quality ratings over time within observed classrooms provide suggestive evidence of the effect of the feedback (Dahlke, Manzeske, Butler, & Zajano, 2009; Dahlke, Drill, Williams, Manzeske, & Zajano, 2011). However, this preliminary evidence is not robust to ruling out alternative explanations to changes in quality, such as other simultaneous quality improvement efforts. The proposed study will use rigorous, econometric methods to identify treatment effects – exploiting the random selection process to receive observations and feedback as part of the ODE ELLCO study. The outcome variables of focus include both ECE staff outcomes (i.e., staff retention and participation in professional development) and child outcomes (i.e., early language and literacy skills and social-emotional development). To facilitate these analyses, ODE has provided a rich, statewide dataset linked to treatment and comparison ECE staff across multiple years. The proposed study is aligned with the following research topic priorities identified in the Child Care Research Scholars grant announcement: cost-effective investments to improve child care quality (Topic 9) and issues and outcomes related to early childhood workforce development (Topic 11). It is highly relevant given state efforts as well as state and federal resources expended toward improving child care quality. As state policy makers determine how to implement the “I” of QRIS, understanding the effect
Effective start/end date9/30/159/29/16


  • Administration for Children and Families (90YE0159-01-00)


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