College of Arts & Sciences

Child Development Laboratory


Early To Learn (E2L)

Many of Philadelphia’s children do not succeed in school, and too often, seeds of failure are sown before they even enter kindergarten. Preschool Plus was a central component of Early to Learn: Partners for School Readiness (E2L), a multifaceted initiative implemented by United Way of Southeastern PA (UWSEPA) aimed at removing barriers local children face to school readiness. E2L tests strategies that strengthen the delivery and integration of key early learning supports, including services for early care and education, healthcare, and parent engagement.i By its implementation, E2L also seeks to increase the capacity of participating organizations to provide integrated, high quality services so eventually all children can enter school ready to learn. Preschool Plus tested strategies to improve the quality and accountability of 31 early care and education (ECE) programs, serving over 2,400 children, in the Philadelphia region. UWSEPA brought together organizations that spanned the ECE, healthcare, and business communities to provide multidisciplinary technical assistance to centers. These organizations included the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC), the Philadelphia Early Childhood Collaborative (PECC), The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The Child Development Laboratory at Saint Joseph's University was funded by the William Penn Foundation to evaluate Preschool Plus.

To read further: Sowing The Seeds Executive Summary or to read the Final Report: Sowing The Seeds Final Report.

Early To Read (E2R) (funded by the Knight Foundation)

Early to Read was conceived in the context of ongoing community-based efforts to improve the quality of early care and education for children in the Philadelphia region, who all too often are unsuccessful in school.  As a part of a multi-faceted intervention called Early to Learn: Partners for School Readiness (E2L) being implemented by the United Way of Southeastern PA (UWSEPA) aimed at increasing school readiness, E2R sought to improve the quality of early literacy experiences in early care and education classrooms.   The E2R evaluation, funded by a grant from the John S. and James L Knight Foundation, took place between 2004 and 2008 and was implemented by UWSEPA.

Early to Read sought to increase children’s emergent literacy through the use of several different support strategies targeted at three different levels:  centers, teachers, and families. It aimed to do this by improving the literacy environments in early childhood education (ECE) programs, improving practices of ECE teachers through intensive professional development and technical assistance, and promoting parental involvement in their children’s literacy development.

The major aims of the evaluation included:

  • Describing the implementation of Early to Read;
  • Documenting the services being delivered as part of Early to Read;
  • Assessing the impact of the intervention on early childhood educators’ characteristics including their academic credentials, retention rates, beliefs and practices regarding early literacy and developmentally appropriate practices, and their childrearing attitudes;
  • Assessing the impact on the quality of the literacy environments in preschool classrooms; and
  • Assessing whether teacher participation has an impact on the emergent literacy of children in Early to Read classrooms.

To read further: Early to Read Executive Summary or to read the Early to Read Final Report.

Child Care Initiative (CCI)

The Child Care Initiative (CCI) of the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) is a program that provides grants, loans, and capacity-building services to nonprofit organizations that provide child care in the five counties of Southeastern Pennsylvania. The grant and loan funds available through the CCI are for capital projects, and the capacity-building services are directed at business practices and facilities planning and management.  In 2007, the William Penn Foundation, a major funder of the CCI, awarded the Child
Development Laboratory at Saint Joseph’s University Department of Psychology, a grant to evaluate the development, implementation, and impact of the CCI on child care organizations and on the child care system in the region.  The evaluation consists of four inter-related components which include both a retrospective and a prospective examination of the impact of the CCI, a survey of how regional child care programs meet their capital needs, and an examination of the history of capital investments in child care programs throughout the region. The evaluation of the CCI is comprised of four inter-related studies that cover the full breadth of the initiative: the Retrospective Study, the Prospective Study, the System Impact Study, and the Historical Study.

The ultimate goal of the CCI is to increase the supply of high quality child care programs in the Philadelphia region. Recognizing that poor facilities are often a significant and costly barrier to high quality child care settings, NFF provides capital, capacity building services, and individualized technical assistance to improve the quality of facilities housing nonprofit child care programs and to promote the capacity of programs to better meet their capital needs in the future. The CCI was established in 2003 as a result of a public/private funding partnership between the City of Philadelphia and the William Penn Foundation.

The Retrospective Study has been completed as of June 2009 and the Prospective Study is now underway.

To read further: Child Care Initiative Summary or to read the Child Care Initiative Final Report.

Success By Six (SB6)

Success By 6® is a national United Way strategy in more than 350 cities across the country all focused on improving school readiness through local community change. While local strategies, goals, and objectives vary, the ultimate outcome is that young children enter school ready to succeed.  In the Southeastern Regional Key of Pennsylvania, the CDL, with funding allocated by the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania (UWSEPA), has provided support for four cohorts with a total of 82 centers to date.  Centers participating in Success By 6 receive on-site intensive mentoring and technical assistance, twice a year Environmental Rating Scale (ERS) assessments (ITERS-R and ECERS-R), program improvement funds, peer learning opportunities and additional benefits and external resources connected through United Way.  In the Fall of 2009, we will begin working with Cohort 5, a group of 19 centers that are both stand alone as well as multi-site centers.  

Why does this research make a difference?  The first years of a child's life, birth through age five, are the most important years for building a strong foundation for future success in school and in life.  Research shows that in the first five years of a child's life, the brain grows faster than at any other period. The people who have the most influence in building this strong foundation are parents and other caregivers with whom the child spends the most time.  The loving care, positive learning experiences and supportive environments they provide make a child feel secure and safe - all extremely important in nurturing a child's brain growth and development.

Program Quality and Improvements in Philadelphia Safe and Sound Programs: 2007 to 2008 

The purpose of the present report is two-fold. The first purpose is to examine SACERS scores in relationship to a number of program characteristics. The second purpose is to present results concerning the effectiveness of the quality improvement efforts that Philadelphia Safe and Sound (PSS) initiated with its after-school programs between 2007 and 2008. We believe both types of information will be helpful to PHMC staff as they continue efforts to assure quality programming for after-school programs funded by the City of Philadelphia.  A team of assessors from the Saint Joseph's University Child Development Laboratory was contracted by PSS to rate the quality of its after-school programs in both Spring 2007 and Spring 2008 using the School-age Care Environment Rating Scale (SACERS; Harms, Jacobs, & White, 1996). The SACERS provides an overall snapshot of activities, interactions, and surroundings for children and adults during after-school time.

To read further:  Final SACERS Report for PSS

The Philadelphia Child Care Quality Study

The Philadelphia Child Care Study was funded by the Early Childhood Planning project:

Improving School Readiness, a collaboration of the United Way of Southeastern PA and the City of Philadelphia. Its purpose was to identify the typical level of quality of selected early childhood education and care settings encountered by preschool-aged children in Philadelphia. This information is to be used in planning efforts aimed at improving the school readiness of local children.

To read further: Philadelphia Child Care Quality Study Report

Use of Early Care and Education in the United States Virgin Islands

Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society of Research in Child Development.  Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  April 1, 2011.
This study was funded with the support of Saint Joseph's University's Office of Mission, the Department of Psychology and The Child Development Laboratory.

The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the use of early care and education from the perspective of parents of young children living on St. Thomas and St. John, USVI.  Research questions examined how parent's experiences with, and perspectives on, early care and education might vary as a result of family and psychological characteristics, as both significant demographic and cultural differences distinguish the West Indian majority from a sizable minority of expatriates from the mainland U.S.

Use of Parenting in West Indian Families: Relationship to Parental Literacy Beliefs and Practices

Poster presented at the Caribbean Regional Conference on Psychology, Nassau, Bahamas.  November 2011.
This study was funded with the support of Saint Joseph's University's Office of Mission, the Department of Psychology, and the Child Development Laboratory. 

To read the full poster presentation: Caribbean Poster