Our Research Projects

Beginning Education: Early Childcare at Home (BEECH)
Beginning Education: Early Childcare at Home (BEECH) is a two-year project that is studying the effectiveness of a web-based professional development course for home child care providers towards improving cognitive, socio-emotional, language, literacy, and math skills of infants, toddlers and preschoolers in care. One-hundred eighty registered and licensed child care providers in Harris, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties in Texas will participate in the study, which will include more than one thousand children 5 years and younger.  The study is funded by the Texas Early Learning Council through support by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009.

This multidisciplinary program of research includes natural history studies as well as clinical trials examining a variety of outcomes in children and adults with acquired or developmental conditions that affect brain development and/or function. 

Comparative Coaching
The proposed project is unique in that it brings together two widely used, evidence-based coaching approaches for supporting early childhood teachers in a comparative analysis. The purpose of this study is to contrast these two approaches in order to investigate their benefits to teachers’ understanding and instructional practices supporting children’s language and literacy skills. In addition to investigating the extent to which each model for professional development has lasting effects on teachers’ instructional practices, knowledge related to language and literacy development, and beliefs about teaching, it will also study the benefit to low-income, preschool-age children’s literacy, language, and social development. Performing these analyses will allow exploration of the scalability of these prominent coaching models to help identify the most cost effective methods for providing coaching in early childhood settings.

Enhancing Early Learning for Children with Special Needs (ENABLE)
Enhancing Early Learning for Children with Special Needs is a four year project that studies the effectiveness of a parenting program on the early learning and motor development of infants with spina bifida and infants with tone and strength difficulties, including cerebral palsy. The study investigates whether an integrated parent responsiveness and motor support intervention targeting these infants will result in changes in parent behavior leading to improvements in the overall development of such core skills and competencies as attention, cognition, goal-directed play, language and motor performance.

e-PATT: Parents and Teachers Together
Tthe e-PATT project is to learn whether a combination of two interventions conducted in an electronic format, one in the classroom and one in the home, will have a greater effect on children’s school readiness skills, than either intervention will have alone. e-PATT seeks to investigate the added benefit to low-income, at-risk, preschool age children’s literacy, language, and social development of targeting teacher instructional practices in combination with parental use of responsive style in the home; when both approaches utilize an electronic format. Teachers from local Head Start programs participate in online professional development sessions, while parents of students in their classrooms receive online training in the Play and Learning Strategies (PALS) program.  The study also investigates the potential moderating influence of parent and teacher factors on the targeted behaviors within the home and classroom interventions and their results in increased school readiness skills, in addition to, determining if the intervention’s effects on children’s school readiness skills are sustained into kindergarten. In addition, we will compare the outcomes utilizing this electronic delivery method with the person-to-person delivery method used in the original Parents and Teachers Together project (PATT) executed from 2009-2013. Economic elements involving both interventions will also be analyzed and compared.

Building Vocabulary and Early Reading Strategies (EAGER BVERS)
The Building Vocabulary and Early Reading Strategies (EAGER BVERS) Curriculum is the product of a three year grant federally funded by the Institute of Education Sciences. The development and implementation of a vocabulary curriculum for use in kindergarten and first grade is the primary focus of this grant. The curriculum is being developed by a team of teachers and researchers at the Children’s Learning Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The curriculum development team is working in partnership with classroom teachers at HISD schools where the curriculum is being piloted and implemented.

Evaluation of Earobics and Building Blocks
Earobics Step 1 is a computer-based literacy tutor for children ages 4 to 7 years. Colorful, interactive games with instructional feedback teach phonological awareness (PA), phonological short-term memory, and letter-sound correspondence. Building Blocks is a computer-based mathematics tutor for children in prekindergarten to grade six. Colorful, interactive games with instructional feedback teach spatial and geometric competencies, numeric and quantitative concepts, patterns and functions, classifying, sorting, and sequencing. Both programs are in widespread usage. This project aims to test the efficacy of Earobics Step 1 and Building Blocks and to compare the efficacy of standard implementation of Earobics Step 1 to theoretically motivated variations in instructional sequencing of this program.

The Family Learning Involvement Program (FLIP)
The Children’s Museum of Houston, in collaboration with the Children’s Learning Institute, developed a set of 201 family literacy kits that each consist of a high quality children’s picture book, handouts for parents about how to make the reading experience interactive and fun, and the materials and directions for an extension project (e.g., a game, art/craft activity, or set of toys) related to the book. Each kit targets a specific age range from infant through age 8, and the kits are available to check out through public library branches. The Children’s Learning Institute partnered with the Children’s Museum of Houston to conduct a preliminary study of the impact of engagement with the FLIP kits on parent and child home literacy practices and attitudes, and on children’s literacy-related skills and attitudes.

Interventions for Children with Attention and Reading Disorders (ICARD)
The purpose of ICARD research is to learn about the best treatment approaches for children who have both Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and serious reading difficulties (RD).  ADHD and RD are common childhood disorders and frequently co-occur. A number of studies suggest that students who have both disorders have even more severe academic and social difficulties and higher school dropout rates than students who have only RD or only ADHD. Nevertheless, there has very little research on interventions for students with both conditions. Educators, physicians, clinicians, and parents need to know (a) whether it is sufficient to provide these students with supplemental reading interventions without directly treating the ADHD; (b) whether students’ reading outcomes will improve with ADHD treatments alone, without supplemental reading intervention; or (c) whether students need treatments for both ADHD and RD. This study is comparing student outcomes when students receive treatment for ADHD only, RD only, or the combination of the two.

Lactoferrin for Prevention of Sepsis in Infants
The high frequency of serious infections in premature infants, as well as their associated morbidity and mortality, is the critical barrier to progress in improving infant care. We hypothesize that lactoferrin is the major factor in milk responsible for these protective effects (decreased rates of infection  and improved neurodevelopment) due to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.  This study if successful will fundamentally change current clinical care of neonates both in the developed and developing world, and could improve the quality of life of the infants and their families.

Multi-Tiered System Supports (MTSS) Program

My Baby & Me
This study evaluated the impact of the “My Baby and Me” parenting program, a home-based, preventive intervention targeting young mothers at high risk for child neglect. In this multisite, randomized, controlled clinical intervention trial, 272 high-risk mothers from diverse geographic communities were recruited during pregnancy and randomly assigned to either a high- or low- intensity intervention condition. The two-and-a-half year intervention included up to 51 home-based sessions that included multiple modules (e.g., establishing predictable, nurturing daily routines; education about child development, child health, and safety; teaching specific parent-child interaction strategies; adult problem solving/decision making; connecting with community resources).  The program was designed to enhance parenting competence, reduce neglect, and improve the well-being of mothers and children.

Parents and Teachers Together (PATT)
PATT is a three-year project investigating whether a combination of interventions, one in the school and one in the home, has a greater effect on children’s school readiness skills.  PATT seeks to determine the added benefit to low-income, at-risk, preschool age children’s literacy, language, and social development of targeting teacher instructional practices and the use of a responsive interactive style in the classroom, in combination with parent use of a responsive style in the home.  Teachers in local Head Start programs participate in the Texas School Ready! (TSR!) program, while parents of students in their classrooms receive training in the Play and Learning Strategies (PALS) program.  The study also investigates whether these positive changes in children’s school readiness skills are sustained into kindergarten.  The study is funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES), a part of the U.S. Department of Education.  In the 2010-2011 school year, a grant from the Still Water Foundation allowed the project to expand to include several sites in Austin in addition to the Houston-area sites.

Pre-K Dual Language Learners (Pre-K DLL)
The purpose of the Pre-K Dual Language Learners (Pre-K DLL) project is to implement, evaluate and document a successful dual language program serving prekindergarten children (three-, four-, and five-year olds).  Pre-K DLL provides training to bilingual mentors and teachers in the areas of classroom management, vocabulary, phonological awareness, book reading, letter knowledge, social/emotional issues, oral language, writing, math and special needs.  Teachers learn how to assess children, translate data into effective teaching methods, and provide innovative dual language instructional activities to prepare kids to succeed in school.  Parents of participating classrooms will receive resources to make learning fun for their children at home.

Pre-K Tutor-Based Mathematics and Attention Interventions
This research project will test the effectiveness of a preschool program, Pre-K Mathematics Tutorial, and the combination of this program with attention training, for improving the mathematical knowledge of preschool children who are especially low performing in mathematics and at highest risk for mathematical difficulties in school. The approach of combining mathematics and attention training is based on findings from developmental psychology, math learning disability research, and cognitive neuroscience that point to a strong link between mathematical learning and attention.

Preschool Curricula: Outcomes and Developmental Processes
This project was begun in response to a Request for Proposals by the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD). NICHD sought proposals to evaluate integrated curriculum that targeted skills research deemed important for young children (e.g., early literacy, mathematics, social skills and self-help skills). A strong team of researchers with experience in developing curriculum targeting math knowledge, early literacy and social skills was recruited to participate in a multi-site study.   Core components of each curriculum were integrated to provide wide-ranging, age-appropriate curricula for children enrolled in prekindergarten classrooms as well as for younger two to three-year old children.   This five-year, multi-site study examined the impact of integrated classroom curricula and teacher professional development on low-income, at-risk children.

Promoting Adolescents’ Comprehension of Text (PACT)
Annual student growth in reading achievement is greatest during elementary school and declines considerably over time, with high school students making the least growth. Although the consequences of failing to develop adequate reading comprehension skills in middle school and high school students are major, individuals this age are often not the focus of cognitive and intervention studies. Funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education, this five-year study assesses students in middle school and high school on text and cognitive processes and motivational and engagement factors that affect reading comprehension of older students. Through the use of design experiments, innovative curricula and instructional approaches geared specifically for older, struggling students will be developed.

Raising a Reader Project
This project demonstrated the benefits of supplementing the Raising a Reader program with parent training in shared reading strategies.  The project also explores developmental relations among oral language and emergent literacy skills of monolingual English and Spanish/English bilingual children.

Reading Rules!
The purpose of the Reading Rules! project is to develop and pilot a reading intervention program for children in first grade who are at-risk for serious reading difficulties in both decoding (word reading) and reading comprehension.

School Readiness Curriculum Based Measurement System (SR-CBMS)
UTHealth is developing, scaling, norming, and equating a computer-administered assessment of school readiness to be used to monitor the learning of 3- to 6-year-old children who speak English, Spanish, or both English and Spanish. The School Readiness Curriculum Based Measurement System (SR-CBM) includes large items pools that assess vocabulary, letter name and sound knowledge, phonics and phonological awareness in both languages. Item pools will support creation of parallel forms and forms for different ages and grades. We hope to expand the measure to include math and science in the near future.

Small Group Approaches for English Language Learners (ELL)
Small Group Approaches for English Language Learners is a four-year project that is studying the effectiveness of a comprehensive Spanish school readiness curriculum combined with small group instruction towards improving literacy, language, math and social skills for a local group of prekindergarten ELL children from low-income backgrounds. Houston Independent School District (HISD) pre-K classrooms with a bilingual teacher/aide structure are planning to participate in the study, which will include more than one thousand ELL children in all. The study is funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES), a part of the U.S. Department of Education. 

Special Education Training Fellowship
The Postdoctoral Research Training Program in Language and Literacy will allow fellows to conduct rigorous research as well as develop skills in grant writing and publication. CLI provides a strong training environment for research in language and literacy from preschool years through high school. Researchers are engaged in randomized controlled trials for educational interventions, in the development of evidence-based interventions, and in basic research that investigates the determinants of learning ability and disability.

Texas Center for Learning Disabilities
The Texas Center for Learning Disabilities (TCLD) is a grant-funded research center developed to investigate the classification, early intervention, and remediation of learning disabilities (LD).

Texas Family Child Care Home Project
In Texas, roughly 50% of incoming kindergarteners received early childhood education services in home-based environments, the largest portion of which include family child care settings.  Historically, family child care has received minimal attention in terms of quality improvement as most efforts have revolved around child care and Head Start centers and public schools. Given the magnitude of children entering public schools across the state, disparities in school readiness, and a real need to invest resources and quality improvement efforts into the family child care system, the purpose of this project is to recruit and implement evidence-driven child development and school readiness interventions in family child care programs, both licensed and registered by the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Texas Kindergarten Entry Assessment (TX-KEA)
TX-KEA will be a comprehensive assessment evaluating key early learning domains (e.g., Language Comprehension, Vocabulary, Letter Knowledge, Letter-Sound Knowledge, Mathematics, Science, Early Writing, Social-Emotional, and Motor Skills).   Parallel version of TX-KEA for English and Spanish speakers will be developed.  Given the need for quality assessment products that demonstrate adequate psychometric properties and the need of school districts to have cost effective assessment alternatives, TX-KEA was designed from its outset as being an assessment that can be completed online and that will be provided to state funded school programs at no cost (i.e., open-source for Texas School Districts).

Toddler Language in the Classroom (TLC)
This three-year study will develop and document the feasibility and promise of a professional development intervention targeting teachers of at-risk toddlers in childcare settings. This eight to 10 session intervention, to be called “Toddler Language in the Classroom” or “TLC”, will be designed to improve at-risk toddlers’ language outcomes by increasing quality language and literacy experiences in the childcare setting. The intervention will include didactic training and in-class mentoring to assist teachers in achieving knowledge of early language development, empowerment in their role in supporting toddlers’ language development, and competence in applying specific language promoting strategies within daily care giving contexts such as meal/snack time, centers time, circle/book-reading time, outdoor time, and transition times.

Treatment Of Adult Severe TBI Using Autologous Bone Marrow Mononuclear Cells
There is currently no therapy to reverse the primary injury associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI). This dose-escalation study will assess safety and examine the effects of treatment of severe TBI in adults using autologous bone marrow mononuclear cells. The study will assess the impact of cellular therapy on neuroinflammatory markers and blood brain barrier permeability.  In addition, the effect of intervention on structural neuroimaging, as well as functional and neuropsychological outcomes, will be examined.

Traumatic Stress after Pediatric Injury: Neurobiological Influences
This five-year study, funded through a $3 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a continuation of several studies Ewing-Cobbs and colleagues have conducted on the overall effects of traumatic brain injury on a child’s neurodevelopment.  Annually, more than 8 million children under the age of 17 sustain some physical injury and nearly half a million children sustain traumatic brain injury. The study will examine changes to stress response systems during the year after children and adolescents ages 8-15 are hospitalized for traumatic brain and/or extracranial injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions.

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