Equitable and inclusive classroom experiences: Your questions answered!


How do we ensure that all children are receiving the levels of interaction that pave the way for school success? We explored this question on a special webinar moderated by Ellen Roche, Executive Director of Trust for Learning, featuring Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Highscope, and Lauren Cooper, Implementation Success Coordinator at LENA. Here, we’ve pulled together answers to questions discussed and submitted during the conversation.

Q: What is equity and equitable learning?

Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka: “Equity really means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to thrive and reach their potential. This requires that we remove obstacles such as poverty, discrimination, racism — and all their consequences — including powerlessness and lack of access. It’s not just about equality, which is giving everybody the same thing, it’s about making sure people have what they need to thrive.

When we think about equity in the early childhood education space, it means we’re creating the conditions where individual children, especially historically marginalized children, have what they need to be successful. Equity could come in the form of access to high-quality learning experiences, a stable and well-compensated workforce, or strengths-based approaches that meet children’s needs.”

Q: What are some of the reasons equitable classrooms are so important?

Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka: “We know that studies indicate that children’s early experiences are related to their outcomes, whether it’s health, education, or just general well-being. Research also indicates that it’s not necessarily the nature of the risk, but the quantity, or cumulative number of risks, that have the most impact on children’s development. When you look at the data on adverse childhood experiences through a racialized lens, you see that children of color, especially black children, are likely to have higher rates of ACES compared to white or Latino children. Research shows that these children who need high-quality care the most are less likely to be in high-quality center-based programs.”

Q: What was the Perry Preschool Study?

Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka: “This study examined the lives of 123 African American children and concluded that a high-quality preschool program based on the HighScope approach yields lifetime positive effects, like higher graduation rates, fewer crimes committed, higher employment rates, and higher income.”

Q: Will Iheoma’s paper be available? It sounds so interesting and important for preschool teachers to understand!

Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka: “Yes. You can access the abstract online or reach out to me for a full copy.”

Q: What are the Ideal Learning Principles, and where can I find more information about them?

Ellen Roche: “Over the years, Trust for Learning has convened and supported expert early childhood practitioners. We call these folks the Ideal Learning Roundtable. Iheoma and HighScope sit at that table and are contributors to the learning and thinking, as well as a variety of other rich, developmental early childhood programs. These experts have looked at all the approaches and articulated the underlying DNA of what makes for extraordinary early learning — core principles like equity, play, and the underlying pedagogical relationship between the child, teacher and environment. You can download a booklet from our website which outlines all of the Ideal Learning Principles and approaches in depth. Our mission is to expand Ideal Learning programs in the public sector.”

Q: How can LENA technology support equity?

Lauren Cooper: “We’ve discovered by looking at LENA data that more than a third of children in early childhood classrooms may be spending their time in “language isolation,” experiencing just four or fewer interactions per hour with a caregiver for the majority of the day. Using LENA Grow, early childhood teachers can see a breakdown of how much conversation each child experienced, and work to provide equitable opportunities for interaction to each child.

We’re seeing that children in LENA Grow classrooms who start out experiencing the least amount of talk see the greatest gains. Those who began in the bottom third of the lowest talk rooms saw 56% growth in interactions by the end of the program.”

Q: Can you track the number of conversational turns individual children experience within a classroom, or is the data provided across all the children in the classroom?

Lauren Cooper:
“LENA reports look at both individual children and the classroom environment as a whole. This can serve as a valuable tool for teachers to identify if certain children in their classroom are experiencing less access to brain-building conversation, while also getting insight into the broader classroom language environment.” Click here to take a look at sample reports.

Q: Does LENA technology pick up both English and Spanish words?

Lauren Cooper: “That’s a great question that we receive frequently! You can find the answer to this and other common questions about LENA by visiting our FAQ page.”


The LENA Team is a dedicated group of professionals who are passionate about increasing awareness of the importance of early interactive talk. We are statisticians, speech-language pathologists, curriculum specialists, engineers, and linguists.

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