Heather Bachman - Projects
Faculty - Associate Chairperson

Parents Promoting Early Learning (PPEL)

Jul 2017 - 2024

Gaps in math skills related to socioeconomic status (SES) have grown in recent years, as the math skills of children from high income families have grown faster than those of children from middle- or low-income families. These disparities emerge in preschool and are large by the start of kindergarten. As children progress through school, math skills gaps persist or even widen. Importantly, SES-related disparities in math skills have implications for long-term academic achievement and educational attainment, as well as access to STEM education and professions in adulthood. Thus, there is an urgent need to identify the factors shaping early math development before children start formal schooling. This investigation will provide foundational knowledge about the activities and interactions in the home environment that drive the early emergence of math skills disparities related to SES. Findings from this work have the potential to inform home visitation programs and early care and education curricula aimed at strengthening the early math skills of economically disadvantaged children. In doing so, the knowledge generated by this study has the potential to enhance equity in access to STEM education and professions for children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families.

Cross-Contextual Sources of Economic Disparities in Early Academic Trajectories (2006-2010)

Billions of dollars are spent each year in the United States on initiatives such as Head Start, Title I, No Child Left Behind, and other interventions and remedial support services to improve the academic achievement of children in poverty. In the extant literature, however, relatively little is known about the every day classroom learning experiences of children from economically disadvantaged households. The current objectives of the study are to focus on child characteristics as well as key parenting and instructional practices that most directly enhance children’s early reading, mathematics, and vocabulary skills. In collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal in the Dept. of Pscyhology, we will employ two large, multi-site, longitudinal datasets that are renowned for breadth and depth in classroom, family, and child measures: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study’s Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD SECCYD).

Pitt School Readiness Study (2007-2011)

The primary goal of this study is to provide conduct detailed, quantifiable observations of prekindergartenteacher practices (e.g., type of instruction, frequency, and duration) in community-based private centers serving low-income children. Associations among observed teacher practices and children’s growth during the pre-k year in early literacy, numeracy, and socioemotional skills were examined. Child care centers were recruited from low-income neighborhoods within a mid-Atlantic U.S. city. A total of three cohorts of four- and five-year-old children participated in the study (including a pilot sample), and the final aggregated sample consisted of 289 children nested within 74 preschool classrooms from 30 child care centers. Using a time sampling method, trained observers conducted 2.5 hour observations in the fall, winter, and spring of the pre-k year.

Heather Bachman


University of Pittsburgh
5941 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260