Research-Practice Partnerships to Strengthen Early Education

April 20, 2021

Research-practice partnerships (RPPs) are long-term collaborations between researchers and policy makers and/or practitioners that are designed to improve educational outcomes through sustained collaboration and commitment. They are defined by longevity, mutual decision-making and compromise, and the commitment of both parties to larger-scale systems-level problem-solving, rather than a single project or research question.

To build a system of high-quality early care for all children, some early education research must pivot to questions, methods, and timelines that align with the needs of policy makers and practitioners who are making high-stakes, systems-level decisions. At the same time, research must stay firmly rooted in the science of how children develop. RPPs are a particularly promising strategy for doing this well.

Unlike a typical Future of Children issue, which describes what’s already known about a topic that affects children’s lives, this issue focuses on an approach to research and practice, aiming to distill lessons from existing RPPs in early childhood education and to provide a road map for researchers and policy/practice leaders who want to collaborate. Each article is centered on major challenges or opportunities involving RPPs, such as creating a research or funding agenda, developing tools, taking innovation to scale, navigating conflicting timelines, finding a balance between rigor and feasibility, and building capacity.

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