Research-Practice Partnerships

We are excited for you to see this just released policy brief from Princeton & Brookings’ the Future of Children. The brief highlights strong partnerships between E3, UVA, The Virginia Department of Education and policymakers that led to the development and wide-scale implementation of the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program as a tool for teachers, parents, schools and early learning programs.

Research-practice partnerships (RPP’s) represent an especially promising strategy fro making sure that all children benefit from early childhood education, according to the journal released on April 29th by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution.

The latest issue of the Future of Children, edited by Daphna Bassok of the University of Virginia and Pamela Morris of New York University, argues that RPPs are crucial for solving today’s most pressing question in early childhood education – how to deliver high-quality prekindergarten programs at scale.

RPPs are long-term collaborations between researchers, on the one hand, and policy makers and practitioners, on the other.  Designed to improve educational outcomes through sustained collaboration and commitment, RPPs are defined by longevity, mutual decision-making and compromise, and the commitment of both parties to large-scale, systems-level problem solving, rather than a single project or research question.

In study after study, early childhood education programs developed by researchers have shown large benefits, holding out the promise of substantially narrowing the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their better-off peers.  But when cities and states establish large-scale prekindergarten programs, Bassok and Morris noted, the results are often far more modest.  The important questions today aren’t about whether early childhood education “works,” but about how to invest limited resources to improve the quality of large-scale prekindergarten programs, support the early childhood workforce, and reach the children who need the most help.

“Delivering effective early childhood education at scale remains elusive,” said Bassok.  “Findings from promising research studies rarely make their way into early childhood practice; at the same time, policy and practice decisions are often made without research evidence to guide them.

That’s partly because policy makers and practitioners have different priorities and work on different timelines than researchers do.  Through collaboration, compromise, and long-term commitment, RPPs can help bridge the gap and produce research that’s relevant and useful to policy makers and practitioners, while at the same time offering scholars opportunities for broad and innovative research wouldn’t be possible in one-off studies of a single program or topic.

Each article in the journal describes how a successful early childhood RPP confronted a major challenge or exploited an unexpected opportunity in the process of working together to create a research or funding agenda, develop measurement tools, take innovation to scale, navigate conflicting timelines, find a balance between academic rigor and feasibility, or build research capacity.  In this sense, the journal offers both a user manual and a road map for future partnerships to follow.

“The pandemic has created large gaps in the services provided to our younger learners, and opened the door for new collaborations as policy systems race to meet children’s needs,” said Morris.  “In this context, RPPs can support efforts to rebuild and reimagine early childhood education systems that can help all of our nations’s children acquire strong foundations for kindergarten and beyond.”

Visit to read “Research-Practice Partnerships to Strengthen Early Education” as well as past issues  of the Future of Children, which is a collaboration of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and the Brookings Institution.

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