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Penn Child Research Center

ECEI: Early Care and Education Interview

The Early Childhood Experiences Interview (ECEI) was developed by John Fantuzzo at the University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Childs at the School District of Philadelphia. The ECEI is an instrument designed  to gather information about children entering kindergarten in Philadelphia for the purpose of supporting research on the impact of early childhood learning experiences on school readiness and improving connections between pre-k and kindergarten classrooms to boost outcomes for young children.

Supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation, the ECEI was launched in 2000-01 and has been institutionalized as a part of parent-teacher interviews for incoming kindergarteners in the Philadelphia School District. It is administered during parent-teacher conferences held during the first three days of the school year. Teachers conduct one-on-one structured interviews with parents, asking them about the type and duration of their child’s early learning experience, presence or absence of subsidy, and parents’ perception of their child’s school readiness.

The results are tabulated by the District and used to develop annual kindergarten profiles for each of the District’s 173 elementary schools. District administrators and school principals have also been able to use ECEI data to analyze pre-k feeder patterns and work with pre-k programs to improve early childhood educational outcomes. A web-based readiness screener to be completed by pre-k teachers was also piloted to create a child-centered link between pre-k and kindergarten teachers.

The ECEI was piloted in the fall of 2000 with a representative sample of 7,000 kindergarteners. It was used again in the fall of 2001 to study early childhood experiences and school readiness of another representative sample of 6,500 kindergarten students. Prior to kindergarten entry, nearly 35% of these students had experienced three or more of the following biological or social risks – poverty, low maternal education, teen mother, inadequate pre-natal care, pre-term birth, lead exposure, maltreatment, out-of-home placement, and homelessness. 

The study found that children who had experienced center-based care and education had better academic and behavioral outcomes on standardized school assessments. Due to the useful information produced from this study, the School District authorized the use of ECEI for all children entering kindergarten starting in academic year 2002.   Since this time further studies conducted by John Fantuzzo and colleagues have demonstrated that center-based care and education continues to provide protection against risks for young children through the 3rd grade. 

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