About Us

Who We Are

This project brings together three of the most experienced and longest-running organizations engaged in early learning services and research in the Kansas City metropolitan and surrounding area. The lead agency in this collaboration, The Family Conservancy (TFC), has a mission of community service in the areas of mental health, parent education, and early learning programs, among others (http://www.thefamilyconservancy.org).  The Family Conservancy (TFC) is an organization with over 130 years of service in Kansas City.  Its main office is at the Children’s Campus of Kansas City– 444 Minnesota Avenue, Suite 200, Kansas City, KS with satellite offices on both sides of the state line.  TFC’s President/CEO, Dean Olson along with Paula Neth, Vice-President of Programs, are Co-Directors of this project.  TFC is leading the work related to the census of local programs and communications based on their extensive knowledge and experience working with early learning programs in metropolitan Kansas City.

The Juniper Gardens Children’s Project (JGCP), collaborating subcontractor, is a program with a 50-year history of improving the academic and social well-being of children and youth through research and development of evidence-based practices known to improve these outcomes for use by parents, caregivers, and teachers (http://www.jgcp.ku.edu).  The JGCP, also based at the Children’s Campus of Kansas City (Suite 300), is a center within KU’s Institute for Life Span Studies. The JGCP Director, Charles R. Greenwood, PhD, and JGCP’s Director of Early Childhood Research, Dr. Judith J. Carta, are leading the work of their team as Co-Directors in relationship to the research and measurement methods to be used this project.

The Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis (OSEDA), established in 1978, is an applied social science research center that specializes in decision-support and policy-development research with an emphasis on demographics, economic development, education, and public health (http://oseda.missouri.edu). OSEDA is part of the Division of Applied Social Sciences, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Wayne Mayfield, PhD, Research Associate, will lead the OSEDA team with respect to the data analysis, report writing, and final report production.

Our Objectives

Realizing the value of early learning programs, The Early Education Funders Collaborative (a consortium of funders) is seeking a comprehensive understanding of the diversity in existing Early Learning programs within the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan areas (Jackson County, MO, and Wyandotte and Johnson, KS Counties) for use in the strategic planning of future investments in early learning and strategies for improvement.  Because little is known about these programs and their greatest needs, we are conducting a survey of existing programs designed to fill this information gap, and to use this information to lead to future planning for improvement.


The value of Early Learning Programs (Preschool, Childcare) is readily recognized as an important contributor to children’s readiness for kindergarten and their future success, including learning to read by 4rd grade, timely graduation from high school, and later life success (Reynolds, Ou, & Topitzes, 2004) and the prevention of many societal problems (e.g., delinquency, incarceration) (Reynolds, Temple, Ou, Arteaga, & White, 2011).

The prevalence of significant reading disability in the U.S. is approximately 1 in 5 children, and more than 1 in 3 children are struggling readers. Forty percent of 4th graders fail to reach the “basic” reading level (Aud et al., 2013; U.S. Department of Education, 2009). This shortfall in reading proficiency is especially pronounced among low-income children: 83% of children from low-income families and 85% of low-income students attending high-poverty schools failed to reach “proficient” levels, according to a recent Nation’s Report Card. Also concerning is the report that 50% of minority students and students who qualify for free and reduced lunch scored at the below basic level, and 60% of students with disabilities still score at the below basic level in 8th grade (National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2013).

Two-thirds of children who fail to learn to read proficiently are more likely to be incarcerated or on welfare as adults than those able to read. As such, it is in the Early Learning Sector with the least public investment that has the potential for greatest impact given investment (Heckman, 2006; Heckman & Masterov, 2007).  Recent estimates state that enrollment in preschool is at an all-time high, with 1.1 million 4-year olds attending 52 programs in 40 states (Barnett, Carolan, Fitzgerald, & Squires, 2012). Within 10 to 15 years, we may optimistically see universal early learning programs in the U.S. become as prevalent as is K-12 public education today.  Yet, even as more children are being served in programs, the quality of pre-literacy and oral language instruction, for example, often remains low to moderate at best (Greenwood et al., 2012; Justice, Mashburn, Hamre, & Pianta, 2008). This is of critical concern, given the finding that early gaps in literacy and language exposure translate into real differences in later academic achievement that are extremely difficult to ameliorate through existing early education (Hamre & Pianta, 2005; Hart & Risley, 1995; Storch & Whitehurst, 2002; Torgesen, 2002).


Aud, S., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Kristapovich, P., Rathbun, A., Wang, X., & Zhang, J. (2013). The Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013-037). Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch

Barnett, W. S., Carolan, M. E., Fitzgerald, J., & Squires, J. H. (2012). The state of preschool 2012: State preschool yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.

Greenwood, C. R., Carta, J. J., Atwater, J., Goldstein, H., Kaminski, R., & McConnell, S. R. (2012). Is a response to intervention (RTI) approach to preschool language and early literacy instruction needed? Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 33(1), 48-64.

Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2005). Can instructional and emotional support in the first-grade classroom make a difference for children at risk for school failure? Child Development, 76(5), 949-967.

Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore: Brookes.

Heckman, J. J. (2006). Skill formation and the economics of investing in disadvantaged children. Science, 30, 1900-1902.

Heckman, J. J., & Masterov, D. V. (2007). The productivity argument for investing in young children. Review of Agricultural Economics, 29(3), 446-493.

Justice, L. M., Mashburn, A., Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. (2008). Quality of language and literacy instruction in preschool classrooms serving at-risk pupils. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(1), 51-68.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). (2013). Reading Assessment 2013. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.

Reynolds, A. J., Ou, S. R., & Topitzes, J. W. (2004). Paths of Effects of Early Childhood Intervention on Educational Attainment and Delinquency: A Confirmatory Analysis of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers. Child Development, 75(5), 1299 – 1328.

Reynolds, A. J., Temple, J. A., Ou, S. R., Arteaga, I. A., & White, B. A. B. (2011). School-based early childhood education and age-28 well-being: Effects by timing, dosage, and subgroups. Science 333(6040), 360-364.

Storch, S. A., & Whitehurst, G. J. (2002). Oral language and code-related precursors to reading: Evidence from a longitudinal structural model. Developmental Psychology, 38(6), 934-947.

Torgesen, J. K. (2002). The prevention of reading difficulties. Journal of School Psychology, 40, 7-26.

U.S. Department of Education. (2009). National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading Assessment: Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.