Research Report

Evaluation of Early Childhood Programs and Child Development in Indiana, from 2021-2022

Latine Children

Read the Executive Summary

Read the Full Evaluation Report

Read the Research Brief on Program Quality

Read the Research Brief on Child Developmental Status

Read the Full Report

About the Project 

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) conducted a landscape evaluation of early childhood programs in Indiana (IN) between the spring of 2021 and the summer of 2022. Commissioned by Early Learning Indiana (ELI), this study provides Indiana programs and policymakers with research-based information on the quality of a sample of 321 classrooms in 206 programs in Indiana and the developmental growth of 715 infants, toddlers and preschoolers in these classrooms. The evaluation focused on understanding the impact of various program components on program quality across a variety of types of early care and education programs in the state. In addition, the report describes the developmental growth of the children in the sampled programs (n= 223 infants and toddlers; n= 492 preschoolers.)

The study found that despite the intervening impact of the pandemic on program operations, the results of independent assessments of quality over two time periods from 2021 to 2022 were stable. Children in this sample experienced environments that on average were warm, caring, and supportive. However, findings indicate low levels of language and instructional support observed over time for all age groups.

This study employed a set of standardized child assessments designed to measure learning across various domains that are psychometrically valid, proven to discriminate effects in intervention studies, and appropriate for the age range of birth to five. The study found that on average, all children showed significant growth in receptive vocabulary, regardless of their enrollment location or center type. However, literacy development lagged for all children similarly, regardless of where children were enrolled. Overall, children also showed improvements in externalizing behaviors.

The report discusses the policy implications of these findings on children’s developmental status and considering the findings on program quality, we recommend that the state provide all educators with the necessary tools to effectively support children’s healthy growth and development. This includes enriched, culturally responsive curriculum and instructional resources, effective assessments to measure and drive progress for classrooms and children, sustained professional development, and actionable data for continuous improvement.

 Research Team 

Milagros Nores, Ph.D. is Co-Director for Research and Associate Research Professor at The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Dr. Nores conducts research at NIEER on issues related to early childhood policy, programs, and evaluation, both nationally and internationally.

Erin Harmeyer, Ph.D. is Assistant Research Professor at NIEER. Dr. Harmeyer conducts research at NIEER related to early childhood programs and evaluation, including projects in West Virginia, Indiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Lori Connors-Tadros, Ph.D. is Senior Research Fellow at NIEER. Dr. Connors-Tadros conducts research to inform state policymakers on issues related to the quality and sustainability of programs for young children birth through early elementary. She is the executive vice president of the Board of the National Parents as Teachers organization.

Zijia Li, Ph.D. is Assistant Research Professor at NIEER. Dr. Li is an experienced psychometrician and statistician. She has led and participated in leading and conducting rigorous reliability and validity research studies for multiple subjects, including Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III and IV, the Hawaii Early Learning Profile®, and the High/Scope Child Observation Record.

Carol Contreras, M. Ed., is Program Coordinator at NIEER. She has supported research in West Virginia, Colombia (South America), Indiana, and New Jersey.

The Authors

Dr. Milagros Nores is the Co-Director for Research and Associate Research Professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). With a profound expertise in early childhood evaluation, informing data-driven policy and programming, cost and benefits of early interventions, evaluation design, equity, and English language learners, she has established herself as a leading researcher in the field of early care and education.

Erin Harmeyer is an Assistant Research Professor at NIEER. Her research interests include family childcare quality; caregiver-child interactions; and the academic readiness skills of preschool-age children.

Dr. Lori Connors-Tadros is a recognized national leader in early care and education policy and research and provides technical assistance to states to use research to craft and implement effective policies. Lori has deep expertise in comprehensive state early childhood systems, finance and governance for effective policy implementation, leadership and agency capacity to implement policy and improve access, and research and policy to improve outcomes for young children.

Dr. Zijia Li is an Assistant Research Professor at the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER). Her research interests are early care and education policy and quality, quantitative research design and evaluation tool development for field research that informs early education policy, and psychometric theories and applications in early education.

As a Program Coordinator, Carol Contreras provides in-house project support to our research staff. Carol has worked on various projects at NIEER, including the studies of Colombia’s pre-K system, Acelero Learning, Chicago preschools, WV Universal Pre-K study, and several NJ Department of Ed projects.