Gift Expands Research into Early Childhood Education

Oct. 16, 2009

The benefits of a high-quality preschool education are being studied with increasing detail, courtesy of a $100,000 gift from an anonymous fund of The Dallas Foundation to the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS). The philanthropic organization provided the funding to expand a previous study showing that an accredited preschool education can benefit low-income students well into their elementary years.

The research began in 2006 when Educational First Steps (EFS), a nonprofit Dallas organization, approached Dr. Richard K. Scotch and asked him to study how students with low-income backgrounds fared in school after attending accredited EFS preschools and learning centers. Scotch, a professor of sociology and political economy, used data exclusively from the Dallas Independent School District.

“The new funding allows us to expand beyond our original research and track many more students as they progress through elementary years,” Scotch said. “Now we will be able look across the region and see how thousands of students who attended EFS preschools are doing on standardized tests in elementary school, whether they’re being placed in bilingual classes, how well they’re doing overall academically, and so on.”

The funding expands the original study to include more Dallas-area students and data from the Texas Schools Project (TSP), which is housed in EPPS. As a state-designated Education Research Center, TSP brings together education data from multiple Texas state agencies, which creates an unparalleled source of longitudinal data to support comprehensive, high-quality academic research.

“The funding from The Dallas Foundation helps broaden the high-quality education research already under way,” said Dr. Brian Berry, dean of EPPS. “The additional research will contribute valuable information about the long-term benefits students may gain from attending high-quality early childhood education programs.”

Merriott Terry, president and CEO of EFS, said Scotch’s original study offered the holistic approach she was looking for.

“The initial study helped answer the question, ‘Are we doing what we’re trying to do?’” said Merriott Terry, president and CEO of EFS. “We know if we improve the skill level of a child, then we’ve left no child behind. The exciting thing is that EFS, a front-line educational organization, has become a partner with UT Dallas to evaluate results. We consider it an honor to tell the story about how well these students are doing.”

EFS works with more than 80 preschools that serve low-income students. The organization offers its affiliates consultation on early childhood education topics, including curriculum, and college scholarships and training to help elevate education centers to the highest standards of accreditation.

The research gift from The Dallas Foundation may be eligible for matching funding from the Texas Legislature under the Texas Research Incentive Program, or TRIP. The TRIP fund was created by the recently enacted Tier One law, authored by State Representative Dan Branch of Dallas. Through this measure, the Texas Legislature created a $50 million matching fund available to seven institutions dubbed “emerging research universities.” They include the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech, UT Arlington, UT Dallas, UT El Paso and UT San Antonio.


Media contacts: Brandon V. Webb, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, Brandon.webb@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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