Dr. Sara Harris wins award for research on Jumpstart

Dr. Sara Harris Wins Prestigious Sorenson Outstanding Dissertation Award for Research on Jumpstart

Prompts additional research on the early education organization

BOSTON, MA APRIL 25, 2011 – Dr. Sara Harris, author of Early Intervention for Poverty Stricken Children: A Study of Preschoolers Receiving Jumpstart, was recently awarded the 2011 Illinois State University’s Sorenson Outstanding Dissertation Award. This award is the highest honor the university bestows for outstanding graduate student research. Dr. Harris recently presented the study findings in Montreal at the prestigious Society for Research in Child Development biennial conference, and she is currently pursuing publication of her work.

This randomized control trial (RCT) study revealed that Jumpstart children were significantly better prepared for kindergarten than their matched controls, confirming the effectiveness of Jumpstart’s program. Jumpstart recruits and trains college students and community volunteers, known as Corps members, to deliver a high quality, early education curriculum to
preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. During the school year, children develop key language and literacy skills and social-emotional competencies they need to be ready for kindergarten, setting them on a path for lifelong success.

Dr. Laura Berk, Distinguished Professor Emerita at Illinois State University and Jumpstart Board member said, “Because of its rigorous design and robust findings, Dr. Harris’ study is an especially strong step towards further validating Jumpstart as an empirically supported early childhood educational intervention.” By providing a roadmap to consider for future studies, Dr. Harris’ work has encouraged Jumpstart’s Board of Directors and Education & Research department to support additional investigations and study designs that can address the generalizability of results to other Jumpstart locations.

For example, Dr. Harris’ study has inspired Dr. Adena Meyers, assistant professor of psychology at Illinois State University (who was not involved in the original study) to propose a new, larger scale study of child outcomes for Jumpstart’s Chicago-area programs. This new research will help Jumpstart further understand its impact on Chicago’s participating children. Currently, Jumpstart Chicago pairs 170 Corps members with 550 children in four of the city’s lowest income neighborhoods.

Kim Davenport, Jumpstart’s Chief Program Officer, stated “Understanding and demonstrating the effects of supplemental early education programs is an important part of supporting children’s school readiness. We are excited about Dr. Harris’ and Dr. Meyers’ work and welcome other researchers to the table.” Jumpstart is actively raising needed funds to support additional studies, which is crucial for meeting the needs of preschoolers from low-income neighborhoods to access high-quality early education experiences that prepare them for kindergarten and long-term school success.

For more information about Jumpstart’s research and evaluation, go to the Information Center page of Jumpstart’s website or contact Dean Elson, Vice President, Research & Evaluation at Jumpstart at dean.elson@jstart.org.


Every child deserves the chance to succeed, yet studies show that children from low-income neighborhoods are at a greater risk of school failure. Jumpstart is a national early education organization that helps these children develop the language and literacy skills they need for school, setting them on a path to close the achievement gap before it is too late. Since 1993, Jumpstart has trained more than 20,000 college students and community volunteers to deliver its program to more than 90,000 preschool children nationwide. Jumpstart’s award-winning program holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a “Best in America” seal from Independent Charities of America. Join us to work toward the day every child in America enters school prepared to succeed. Learn more at jstart.org.

Press Contact: Jessica Weed

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