Quality Features, Dosages and Thresholds and Child Outcomes: Study Design (Q-Dot), 2009-2014

This project examined associations between the quality of early care and education settings and child outcomes, asking whether certain thresholds of quality or dosage need to be met or particular aspects of quality need to be present before linkages are apparent. Interrelationships of these factors and relevance for different age groups of children between the ages of birth and 5-years participating in center-based care settings will also be considered. A special focus of the project is children from low-income families, including those with risk factors affecting their potential school readiness.

The project was intended to guide new research on the quality of early care and education; support quality improvement initiatives and practice; and, inform policy decision-making at the state and national levels. The final product was the design of a study to test the relationship between thresholds, dosages and features of early childhood program quality and children’s outcomes in multiple developmental domains.
The research questions include:

  • What aspects of quality in center-based early care and education programs serving children from birth through age 5 make a difference in child outcomes? What are the mechanisms by which different quality features support children’s outcomes?
  • What specific features of quality lead to gains in child outcomes? Which measures best capture the components that make a difference?
  • What thresholds of global quality or specific quality features are needed to support gains in child outcomes? Is there a minimum threshold of quality necessary to affect child outcomes? How well are measures of quality capturing these thresholds?
  • What levels of exposure to quality (or dosages) are needed to support gains in child outcomes? How well are measures of quality capturing these levels of exposure?
  • How do quality features, thresholds and dosages relate independently to child outcomes? In relation to one another? How does the age of the child or the type of setting (for example, market-based or program-based affect these relationships?

To address these questions, the project team conducted several activities, including: literature review, secondary analyses of data, conceptual framework and logic model, development of a design, methodology, analyses plans and resources estimates for a new study to test the associations identified in the logic model, and piloting of study design and measurement approaches for the new study. The project was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. and its subcontractors Child Trends, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and University of Virginia.

The point of contact is Ivelisse Martinez-Beck.

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