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Learning about Infant and Toddler Early Education Services (LITES): Summarizing the Research and Gaps on Compelling Models

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“The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, in partnership with the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funded Mathematica Policy Research and its partners to conduct the Learning About Infant and Toddler Early Education Services (LITES) project. LITES aimed to identify program models to support infant and toddler early learning in out-of-home early care and education settings to inform future research, policy, and program directions at the federal, state, and local levels. LITES included two main components: (1) a systematic review of the evidence base for program models that aim to support infant and toddler early learning; and (2) a scan of the field for program models that are compelling, but currently lack rigorous research examining impacts on children’s outcomes. This report focuses on the compelling models identified in that scan. To learn more about the systematic review, please refer to Monahan et al. 2015.

LITES defined “compelling models” as models that are viewed by the ECE field as having potential to promote infant and toddler early learning in out-of-home settings, but have not yet been rigorously evaluated. LITES prioritized models that met at least two of the following four criteria: (1) at least one descriptive study of child outcomes with potentially positive findings; (2) at least one impact study with positive findings on interim outcomes; (3) documentation to support replication; (4) used in at least two independent sites or, for curricula, in at least five percent of Early Head Start programs. LITES examined models that targeted children’s cognitive, language, and/or social-emotional/behavioral development.

Through a nomination process and discussion with a small group of experts in the field, LITES identified 13 compelling models: 2 models provide direct early learning services to infants and toddlers; 6 models provide coaching, modeling, or consultation to help caregivers support infant and toddler early learning; and 5 models are infant/toddler curricula. A full spectrum of implementation and outcome research is needed to develop well-specified ECE models, test the feasibility of implementation, develop fidelity standards and measures, and assess whether the models show potential for improving infant/toddler early learning outcomes. This research would lay the groundwork for rigorous evaluation to test model effectiveness.”