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).

As our children progressed into middle school, we wrote three papers on comparisons at this stage of their development. We estimated effects of the CAP Head Start program on middle school outcomes (Phillips, Gormley, & Anderson, Developmental Psychology, 2016). We estimated effects of the TPS pre-K program on middle school outcomes (Gormley, Phillips, & Anderson, Journal of Policy Analysis & Management). We also investigated the possibility of a link between early childhood education and middle school student attitudes (Phillips, Gormley, & Anderson, 2018).

In recent research, we asked whether early childhood education affects high school outcomes. Focusing on students who entered kindergarten in the fall of 2006, we examined possible effects of Tulsa’s school-based pre-K program and CAP Head Start on a range of outcomes, including standardized test scores, GPA, course failures, enrollment in an honors course, absenteeism, and grade retention (Amadon et al., Childhood Development 2022). We also reported on the crucial role of higher-quality magnet schools as a “sustaining environment” that helps to convert short-term preschool gains into enduring benefits (Kitchens, Gormley, & Anderson, 2020).

Most recently, we have examined the effects of TPS pre-K and CAP Head Start on high school graduation and college enrollment; we have investigated a possible link between TPS pre-K and civic engagement in young adulthood; and we have recalculated benefits and costs based on our latest estimates. These findings will be reported on our website on September 20, 2022. Stay tuned!

Race, Ethnicity, and Public Policy

Most CROCUS papers on the Tulsa pre-K program report results by subgroup, including separate runs broken down by race and ethnicity. In addition, we have written several papers and policy briefs that focus primarily on race/ethnicity as a predictor of important outcomes, pre-K effects, or both:

Critical Thinking and K-12 Education

Professor Bill Gormley has written a 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!