Early Childhood Research Initiative (E.C.R.I.)

For more than 28 years, Robin Hood has held steadfast to a single mission: fight poverty in New York City. Today, one in five New Yorkers are living in poverty, including 30 percent of New York City’s children. Even worse, far too many of these low-income children will enter school months, if not years, behind their more affluent peers. Therefore, the need is great for highly effective early childhood programs that can help change these children’s fates.
We have long recognized that early childhood presents us with a unique problem. Rigorous, longitudinal research of high-quality early childhood programs, such as the Abecedarian, Perry Preschool and Chicago Parent Child programs, tell us that such interventions hold great promise in the fight to reduce poverty. Indeed, recent work by leading economists, most prominently James Heckman, argue persuasively that effective early childhood programs can generate far more impact than those delivered later in life. These arguments are supported by data from the long-term follow-up of the model programs, which indicate dramatic improvements in the future living standards of participating children. These improvements, or levers for success, include increased probability of graduating high school, reductions in criminal activity and greater college entry and success, all leading to higher future earnings.  
However, what these follow-up studies don’t tell us is which of today’s early childhood programs should be funded or how to improve existing programs. Furthermore, much of the current research on early childhood interventions is hampered by the lack of follow-up beyond entry into kindergarten. Participants in these programs experience near-term gains that are likely to “fade-out” over time. Therefore, some longer period of longitudinal follow-up becomes critical to proving the positive benefit/cost ratio of specific early childhood programs. 
In partnership with MDRC, the nationally respected social policy organization, and with lead funding provided by the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Overdeck Family Foundation and the Salomon Family Foundation, the Early Childhood Research Initiative takes up this challenge. The core idea is to generate the kind of evidence about early childhood programs that is now so sorely lacking, and to track the children affected by those programs long enough (most likely to third grade, if not longer) to be able to make clear, defensible statements about the long-term effectiveness of those programs. We chose this age marker because research indicates that reasonable predictions about future achievement can be made by third grade. 


The Early Childhood Research Initiative will run multi-year randomized controlled trials—each lasting between five and eight years—to test the long-term academic and socio-economic impact of interventions administered to disadvantaged children under the age of six. Over the next decade or so, we aim to create a proven menu of interventions that powerfully improve the future living standards of poor children and help close the achievement gap. These results will inform Robin Hood’s own decision making about how best to deploy its resources in the early childhood arena.  Working with MDRC and other stakeholders, we will also seek to inform the field, including those across the country, through the strategic dissemination of the results. By design, our trials will hopefully bring high-quality, theoretically-grounded services to thousands of New York City children, their teachers and parents.
For a full summary of findings to date, please click here to download the white paper.

Below is a list of experts who contributed to the development of the Institute’s first intervention, either as members of the original steering committee or through advisory meetings, conference calls or other communications:
Sandra Barrueco
Assistant Professor of Psychology
The Catholic University of America
Karen L. Bierman
Distinguished Professor of Psychology
Pennsylvania State University 
Greg Duncan
Distinguished Professor
University of California-Irvine
Amy Flynn
Early Childhood Education Specialist
New York State Head Start Training and Technical Assistance Center
Herbert P. Ginsburg 
Jacob H. Schiff Foundation Professor of Psychology and Education 
Department of Human Development 
Teachers College Columbia University 
Stephanie Jones
Assistant Professor of Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Laura Justice
Ohio State University
Susan H. Landry
Albert & Margaret Alkek Chair in Early Childhood
Michael Matthew 
Knight Professor of Pediatrics
Director and Founder, Children's Learning Institute
Joan Lombardi
Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter‐Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Jens O. Ludwig
McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration, Law, & Public Policy
University of Chicago
Katherine Magnuson
Associate Professor of Social Work
Associate Director, Institute for Poverty Research
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Robert Pianta
Professor of Education 
Dean, Curry School of Education
University of Virginia 
C. Cybele Raver
Director, Institute of Human Development and Social Change, Professor, Department of Applied Psychology Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, (courtesy appointment, Wagner Graduate School of Public Service)
New York University
Lauren H. Supplee
Senior Social Science Research Analyst
Administration for Children and Families
Hiro Yoshikawa
Professor of Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education 
MDRC Board of Directors
Families and Children Committee
Mary Jo Bane
Academic Dean
Harvard Kennedy School
Board of Directors, MDRC
Ron Haskins
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies
Co-Director, Center on Children and Families
The Brookings Institution
Board of Directors, MDRC 
Richard Murnane
Professor of Education and Society
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Board of Directors, MDRC
Administration for Children’s Services
Office of Child Care and Head Start
Maria Benejan 
Associate Commissioner, Program Development
Sara Vecchiotti
Acting Deputy Commissioner for Child Care and Head Start
Sophia Pappas
Executive Director of Office of Early Childhood Education 
NYC Department of Education