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About Us

The LSU Early Childhood Education Institute is an umbrella organization to promote research and dissemination of recommended practices in early childhood care and education. The Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) is the research, education and outreach initiative within the College of Human Sciences & Education.

The ECEI recognizes the economic impact of Louisiana’s early childhood programs.

  • A recent study found that there is a 13 percent return on investment for high quality, birth-through-4 early education (Davis, Bustamante, Bronfin, & Candal Rahim, 2017) and narrows the achievement gap, increasing cognitive development by 0.35 standard deviations on average (Duncan & Magnuson, 2013).
  • Continuance of high-quality early education is dependent upon ongoing research that investigates promising approaches that lead to sustained growth in cognitive development and school readiness.
  • The returns to society outweigh the initial costs of the program, with researchers estimating the gain in income from children in state-supported programs over a child’s career to be “$9,166 to $30,851, after taking out the cost of the program” (Economics of Early Childhood Investments, 2014).

There is recognition that early childhood programs benefit children, parents, and society. In Louisiana, business lobbies are supporting early childhood education by lobbying for Act 3 (Boone, 2017; Karlin, 2017). From these initiatives, it is evident that “...one of the most efficient means to boost the productivity of the work force in 15 to 20 years is to invest in today’s youngest children.” (Grunewald, 2012, p. 1).

The B-K (Birth through Kindergarten) Teacher Certification structure is now available at LSU, establishing a degreed certification structure for those working in childcare. Shortly, a new generation of undergraduate teachers will be entering the workforce needing experienced, degreed and certified mentor teachers in B-K. The ECEI is positioned to assist in this effort through research, education, and outreach.

In collaboration with both the LSU Early Childhood Education academic programs and the LSU Early Childhood Education Laboratory Preschool, the ECEI promotes recommended practices through discovery, curricula, programs, and strategic partnerships to provide an evidence-based focus on developing recommended practices in early childhood care and education for Louisiana and the nation. The ECEI links LSU’s expertise in early childhood education with the critical need for a highly educated early childhood workforce of researchers and advocates to advance the profession of early care and education.

Our Purpose:

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To provide an evidence-based focus on developing recommended practices in early childhood care and education for Louisiana and the nation by promoting discovery, curricula, programs, and strategic partnerships, including funding support.

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Dissemination of Recommended Practice

To enable the early childhood workforce to implement recommended practices for caring and educating young children.

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To speak up on behalf of young children, their families and those working in the field of early care and education, for effective social policies that support the early years.

Meet Our Team

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Dr. Cynthia DiCarlo, PhD
Executive Director

Christina Lewis

Christina Lewis, MM


Elena Whatley
President's Aid
Undergraduate Student

Meet Our Graduate Students

Bethany McClure, MEd

BethanyBethany McClure serves as a Graduate Assistant in the LSU Early Childhood Education program and is also a full-time faculty member within the Early Childhood Education program at Georgia College & State University. Her research interests include teacher wellness, stress, and burnout; teacher education and supervision including alternative field placements; and the effects of National Board Certification on teacher leadership and student achievement. Prior to her acceptance in the ECE doctoral program in 2022, she worked as an instructor and field supervisor within the Early Childhood Education program at Auburn University. Bethany has taught preschool at the Auburn University Early Learning Center, and she has experience in teaching grades K-2 within the Cobb County School District (Atlanta), Fulton County Schools (Atlanta), and Auburn City Schools (Auburn, AL). Bethany is a National Board Certified Teacher - Early Childhood Generalist. She is involved in the Alabama NBCT Network and the Georgia NBCT Network and she serves as a NBPTS Candidate Support Provider. Bethany is a member of Phi Kappa Phi (LSU chapter), Golden Key (Auburn chapter), and serves as Co-Advisor of the Upsilon Beta chapter of Kappa Delta Pi at Georgia College & State University. She has served on numerous committees and held leadership roles at the elementary level, as well as served as a mentor teacher to pre-service teachers from Auburn University, Tuskegee University, and Kennesaw State University.

Why I chose the LSU Early Childhood Education Graduate Program:

As a National Board Certified Teacher, Early Childhood Education has been the focus of my career. With a background in Elementary Education (K-6), I wanted to focus my doctoral studies on Early Childhood Education (P-3) specifically. Having completed my bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees at Auburn University, I sought out the EdS and PhD program at LSU for new perspectives, diverse peers and colleagues, as well as to learn from faculty members such as Dr. Cynthia DiCarlo. I am very pleased with my decision to attend LSU and know that when I reach the end of my doctoral program I will be well-prepared for the next stages of my career.

View Bethany's curriculum vitae.

Katherine Kinamore, MS

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Katy is an LSU PK-3 Alum. She has worked in Early Childhood Education for 10 years. She has her MS in Curriculum & Instruction. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Early Childhood. After teaching in the classroom for 6 years, Katy started her own tutoring company, The LAPS Center. Here, Katy teaches and coaches undergraduate education majors as they tutor young children. Learning, Academics, and Personal Skills are the foundations of Katy's teaching philosophy and The LAPS Center.  She is passionate about education research and identity development. Her current research interest is exploring the impact of video self-analysis on student-teacher interactions. 

Why I chose the LSU Early Childhood Education Graduate Program:

After graduating from Louisiana State University’s PreK-3 Program, I taught early childhood in Louisiana and Texas. I completed my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi before moving back to Louisiana. I chose the LSU graduate program because I knew working under Dr. Dicarlo’s leadership would be the best place for me to learn about advocating and supporting young children.

View Katherine's curriculum vitae.

Melissa Johnson, MEd

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Melissa Johnson serves as a Graduate Assistant in the LSU Early Childhood Education program and Manager of Birth to Three Provider Partnerships at Agenda for Children. Her research interests include program quality, equity, and access, kindergarten readiness, and perceptions of early childhood education. Prior to her acceptance in the ECE doctoral program in 2021,  she was an ECAC instructor and coach and have previously been a Pre-K teacher.. She has served as a 2022 NAEYC conference proposal reviewer 2022 and LAAEYC Greater New Orleans Region Member-at-Large. 

Why I chose the LSU Early Childhood Education Graduate Program:

When considering continuing my education and work on obtaining a Ph.D. I had to consider many professional and personal factors. I knew after meeting my now advisor, Dr. DiCarlo, that LSU would meet my needs both professionally and personally. The program has allowed me the opportunity to learn more about the needs of the field of early childhood education and has afforded me countless opportunities to grow in being the advocate for change I am striving to be. 

View Melissa's curriculum vitae