Scaling a statewide early childhood quality initiative in Ohio


For early childhood state agencies, implementing professional development programs and quality initiatives is a gargantuan task:

  • Funding streams must be allocated.
  • Buy-in at the county level must be secured.
  • Alignment with wider K-12 goals in the state must be established.

In Ohio, state leaders successfully pulled it off with LENA Grow, an evidence-based professional development program for infant, toddler, and preschool educators. In a new case study, we describe how.

infant playing with her mom in a classroom

Tia Brooks, an infant teacher at Generation Hope Childcare and Preschool in Cincinnati, participated in LENA Grow in early 2023 through 4C for Children, a CCR&R that provides services in two Ohio SDAs.

At the heart of the successful statewide launch was collaboration between the Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association (OCCRRA) and the Ohio Department of Children and Youth (DCY). OCCRRA has been the central coordinating entity for the state’s seven child care resource and referral agencies (CCR&Rs) since 1989, and DCY was created in 2023 to support the governor’s Bold Beginning Initiative.

Program launch

OCCRRA first met with LENA in the spring of 2022 to learn more about how LENA Grow works and the evidence behind its effectiveness. By September, a program agreement had been signed and LENA’s Partner Success team was leading kickoff sessions with coaches from each CCR&R. And on October 31, the first of what would become hundreds of LENA Days took place in two preschool classrooms.

“This was a really energizing initiative to roll out,” said Todd Barnhouse, OCCRRA’s CEO. “The data that comes about with the tool is huge, and almost instantaneous.”

Year #1, and future projections

The first year of the program was funded with one-time COVID-relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). To sustain the program for the next several years, OCCRRA worked with DCY to write LENA Grow into the state’s Preschool Development Grant (PDG) funds.

In the program’s first year, more than 2,000 children and 350 early educators participated in LENA Grow through OCCRRA. By September of 2025, a projected 7,600 additional children in more than 850 classrooms will have completed the program.

Teacher and child outcomes

Initial results show that children who started the program experiencing the least interactive talk saw a 68 percent increase in conversational turns by the end of the program, bringing them above the national median of 15 conversational turns per hour. We know from large LENA datasets that far too many young children experience far too little interaction with their teachers in early care and education settings.

After completing the program, teachers shared their feedback and report on their experience with LENA Grow:

  • 95 percent would recommend the program to other teachers.
  • 90 percent feel more confident in their teaching abilities.
  • 88 percent report increased overall job satisfaction.
  • 81 percent report increased communication with families.
  • 89 percent saw changes in children’s language development.

“They had those ‘a-ha’ moments,” said Kelly Slade, Professional Development Coordinator with OCCRRA. “When they see this real-time data, it opens their eyes to the potential for what could be happening and the kinds of conversations, interactions, and attachment that could be happening with those children.”

Download the full case study.

What's a LENA Day?

During a LENA Day, children wear a LENA device that safely and securely captures their language input and output. Some people call it a “talk pedometer.”

Detailed reports on the classroom’s language environment, and on how much interaction each individual child experienced, get automatically generated at the end of the day. In weekly coaching sessions, educators review the reports and set goals for the coming days.

The end result: more interaction in the classroom, improved child outcomes (including language, literacy, and social-emotional development), and increased teacher satisfaction and job retention.

Explore a LENA Grow Demo


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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