Research Areas

The Tulsa Pre-K Project

The Tulsa Pre-K Project originated in 2001. Since then, we have examined the effects of Tulsa’s school-based pre-K program on school readiness, using data from the fall of 2001 (Gormley & Gayer, Journal of Human Resources 2005), the fall of 2003 (Gormley et al., Developmental Psychology 2005), and the fall of 2006 (Gormley, Phillips & Gayer, Science 2008). In the third of these evaluations, we also assessed the effects of the CAP of Tulsa County Head Start program (Gormley et al., Policy Studies Journal 2010), conducted quality observations in virtually every publicly-funded pre-K classroom in Tulsa (Phillips et al., Early Childhood Research Quarterly 2009), and assessed short-term impacts on social-emotional development (Gormley et al., Child Development 2011). Later, we examined the effects of the Tulsa pre-K program on 3rd grade outcomes, for two of our three cohorts (Hill, Gormley, & Adelstein, Early Childhood Research Quarterly 2015). We have also conducted a benefit-cost analysis of the Tulsa pre-K program (Bartik, Gormley & Adelstein, Economics of Education Review 2012).

In our current research, we are tracking students who enrolled in the Tulsa Public Schools kindergarten in the fall of 2006 (some of whom were in pre-K, others were not). Of these students, 58 percent are now enrolled in Tulsa-area public schools, and 75 percent are now enrolled in an Oklahoma public school. We are examining the effects of the Tulsa Public Schools pre-K program and the CAP of Tulsa County Head Start program on a wide range of outcomes, including standardized test scores, letter grades, enrollment in an honors course, gifted student status, absences, suspensions, special education placement, and grade retention.

Critical Thinking and K-12 Education

Professor Bill Gormley has written a new book, The Critical Advantage: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in School (Harvard Education Press, 2017). In this book, he argues that critical thinking is of vital importance to educational excellence and economic success and that it transcends the transient programs and initiatives with which it is commonly associated, including AP courses, IB courses, and the Common Core. He notes that critical thinking often overlaps with creative thinking and problem solving and he cites numerous examples of blended thinking, including some that led to highly celebrated discoveries (Nobel prizes) and historic initiatives (the Constitution of the U.S.).

A key theme of the book is that critical thinking takes different forms, depending on whether one’s goal is college readiness, career readiness, or civic readiness. For these rather different goals, educators might focus on textual analysis (college readiness), problem solving (career readiness), or deliberative (civic readiness) skills. Another theme is that disadvantaged students do not enjoy the same access to critical thinking (e.g., open classrooms, outstanding teachers) as more affluent students. A third theme is that critical thinking instruction should begin early. Even four-year-olds can learn the relationship between velocity and slope!