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Culturally Responsive Practices: Early Learning Contexts in Rural and Urban Nebraska

Research Team


Principal Investigator: Susan Sheridan

Funding Information

Funding Agency: Institute of Education Sciences (IES)

Award Date: Jun 1, 2018

End Date: May 31, 2023


This project investigates cumulative influences on early learning and achievement for young children at economic disadvantage across rural and urban settings in a Midwestern state through three complementary and prospective studies. 

Research will provide reliable information for policymakers and practitioners to understand variations in practices that augment transitions and early learning; determine malleable factors — responsiveness, organization, instruction, use of date and family-school partnerships — that improve learning environments and promote school readiness and academic achievement for disadvantaged children; and understand the processes necessary for effective transitions from PreK through Grade 3 in rural and urban communities.

Study 1 will assess federal and state-level policies and their operationalization at the local level, as well as local practices across distinctive rural and urban community settings. This will involve 350 classrooms and 1,400 students.

Study 2 will assess the implementation of classroom practices and processes and identify malleable factors that differentiate child outcomes across rural and urban communities. This will involve 492 preschool-aged children who will be followed through third grade.

In Study 3, the short- and long-term effects of malleable factors on children's academic and social-emotional outcomes will be determined, and assess whether the presence of malleable factors across transitions from preschool to Grade 3 narrows the achievement gap for children living in socio-demographic disadvantage. 

The project will take place in 12 geographically dispersed school districts in Nebraska. Ten rural districts and two urban districts will be involved — all of which have 40% or more of students who are eligible to receive free and reduced-price lunch, and offer public preschool. Within each school, center-based preschool, kindergarten, and grades 1, 2 and 3 classrooms will be involved. 

Rural Schools and Communities, Social, Emotional and Behavioral Well-being, Early Childhood Education and Development