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Penn Child Research Center

Primary Areas of Work

Creating and Using Integrated Data Models to Promote Equity and Well-Being

Young children and their families are the stewards of our nation’s future well-being and success. PECF partners with local, state, and national public human services leaders and the communities they serve to develop integrated data models. These models are built from existing administrative data routinely collected by public services systems and subsequently integrated for use to generate evidence that can inform policy and practice decisions. The following describes PECF’s current activities:

  • PECF partners with the City of Philadelphia to use and enhance an evidence-based, integrated data model of early childhood well-being. Read about this work here.
  • PECF conducts research with local early childhood educators and families to surface their understanding of well-being so data from on-the-ground engagement with educators and families can be considered alongside administrative data. Read about this work here.
  • PECF and Penn’s Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy Network work with a team awarded a U.S. DHHS contract to provide support around early childhood integrated data systems to 42 states drawing from the Preschool Development Grants Birth through Five. Read about this work here.

Tackling Ethno-Racial Disproportionality and Disparity

For far too long countless children and families of color and those from low-income communities have faced injustices and inequitable treatment from public human services systems. PECF partners with public human services systems leaders to develop and conduct multi-methods inquiries into program operations and outcomes to tackle systemic, ethno-racial inequality. The following describes PECF’s current activities:

  • PECF works with Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services to build and use evidence to confront the disproportionate and disparate outcomes of children and families of color involved in out-of-home placements through the child welfare system. You can view the Deputy Mayor’s comments on this work and its impact at the April 24th, 2023 Faculty Senate Roundtable here. The Deputy Mayor’s comments on this work start at 18:14 of the video.

Promoting School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Skills

Addressing pernicious and persistent disparities in educational outcomes for young students is a national imperative. To this end, widespread evidence indicates that fostering young children’s social and emotional learning (SEL) skills is critical in reducing these gaps and promoting the success of historically disadvantaged young children. PECF partners with public education systems leaders, teachers, and families to develop practical, responsive, and sustainable tools that adults can use to support children’s SEL skill growth. The following describes PECF’s current activities:

  • PECF partners with the Philadelphia School District and local teachers and families to create and implement the district-wide Conquering Kindergarten initiative. This initiative provides families and teachers with a high-quality report card measure of children’s SEL skills and evidence-based tools to support these skills at home and in school. Read about Conquering Kindergarten here and its report card measure here.

Advancing High-Quality Early Childhood Assessment

There is much truth in the saying, “You can’t move the needle if there is no needle.” PECF recognizes the foundational necessity of high-quality measurement that yields equitable, reliable, and valid information to support advancements for young children and their families. PECF partners with public education systems to develop, validate, and use high-quality measures of the strengths and needs of young children and their families and to inform the development of effective and equitable action. The following describes PECF’s current activities:

  • PECF partners with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to validate its Kindergarten Entry Inventory. Read about this work here.
  • PECF interrogates the overall state of the development and validation of early childhood assessment to support advancements in the early childhood assessment field at large. Read about this work here.
  • PECF develops and validates high-quality measures to generate knowledge that can be used to inform the development of effective and equitable action. To learn more about the measures PECF has developed, visit our Assessments. page

Expanding Dialogue with Researchers, Policymakers, Practitioners, and the Community

Partnership is at the core of PECF’s mission. PECF aims to expand discourse between and among researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and community members to improve policies and programs that serve the diversity of children and families in marginalized communities. To this end, it invites community leaders and families to co-construct efforts for and within the communities alongside program specialists, community leaders, and families to ensure the purpose and process of change. The following describes PECF’s current activities:

  • PECF convenes community-wide Penn lectures/symposia/roundtables to stimulate productive dialogue among experts from research, practice, and community advocacy to make visible major issues impacting young children and families.
  • PECF convenes specially targeted community roundtables to address specific concerns from the community and to call researchers to consider how they can contribute usable knowledge to address these specific concerns. Watch a community roundtable here.
  • PECF engages community agencies and families as partners in different phases of research.