Soojin Oh Park is an assistant professor in Early Childhood and Family Studies at the University of Washington (UW) College of Education. She is a core faculty member of the Learning Sciences and Human Development and the Education, Equity, and Society programs, and an affiliate faculty of the West Coast Poverty Center and Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology. Dr. Park studies early childhood development, parenting, immigration, and culture. In particular, her work is focused on improving the quality of early learning across contexts by centering the voices and expertise of historically underserved, non-dominant families and communities (e.g., low-income, immigrant, and/or families of color) and advancing policy and practice that address racial and socioeconomic inequities in the first years of life.
Her research integrates developmental science and public policy perspectives and employ both quantitative and qualitative methods to pursue three goals:
• Evaluating and improving early childhood system, policy, and program
• Supporting Dual Language Learners (DLLs) and immigrant-origin children
• Understanding parenting and family context of early childhood development (ECD)
Evaluating and Improving Early Childhood Policies, Systems, and Programs through an Equity Lens
Dr. Park's current program of research stems from her early work in evaluating the impact of early childhood policies and programs on children’s development and parenting practice. Under the auspices of the National Forum on Early Childhood Programs and Policies, she joined a multi-university team of researchers to build a meta-analytic database of nearly six decades of rigorous impact evaluations of ECE and parent support programs. While causal inference is central to answering many policy-relevant questions, experimental evaluation can only tell us whether a treatment causally affected an outcome but they cannot tell us how and why such an effect occurs. Greater attention in the field of ECE has been focused on impacts than processes. To better understand “active ingredients” or mechanisms in these programs that enhance the quality of early learning experiences, she conducted a secondary analysis of a large-scale randomized study of Head Start as part of a larger project funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Findings from this study suggested that Head Start, our nation’s flagship preschool program serving close to 1 million low-income children and families, increased levels of Latinx families’ engagement in parent-child learning activities as a pathway to improving their children’s vocabulary, reading, and math skills. This work was jointly funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (# 90YR0049/02) and the Julius B. Richmond Fellowship from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
Dr. Park examines questions of how and why through process evaluation studies and more recently, statewide research-practice-policy partnership (RPP) centered on problems and opportunities of practice generated in real-world settings. Emerging work in improvement science has shaped an exciting direction for generating breakthrough innovations in the early childhood field. With a broad-based support and expansion of early education across the nation, more children are enrolled in public prekindergarten (pre-k) but there is a concerning lack of policies to ensure high quality classroom experiences. In one of her current projects, the Partnership for Pre-K Improvement with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($10,001,795 in grant funding), the team seeks to build research-practice-policy partnership to anchor systemic support for states to develop infrastructure capacity to continuously improve the quality of publicly funded prekindergarten (preK) in Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. She is leading a team to conduct multi-year, cross-state case studies to investigate (1) how these states develop equitable, cross-sectoral partnerships for continuous quality improvement and evidence-based decision making; and (2) how contexts of state preK (governance, leadership, advocacy, fiscal systems, workforce development, and politics) facilitate or impede quality improvement efforts. This will be one of the first large-scale, cross-state studies to investigate the impact of state context on pre-k quality improvement, and generate lessons for advancing equity and quality at scale.
Applying her work to global contexts, she collaborated with Hirokazu Yoshikawa, the Yale Child Study Center, and UNICEF to conduct a process evaluation of the policy architecture, governance, and program implementation of diverse ECE models (home-based, community-driven, public preschools) in low- and middle-income countries and their efforts to improve equitable access to high quality care and education for the most vulnerable children. In efforts to build the field’s understanding of ECD governance in global contexts, we synthesized our cross-national analysis to present a conceptual model for strengthening and integrating ECD services at local, regional, and national levels. This work also resulted in working papers, invited talks, and policy briefs with recommendations that were incorporated into Cambodia’s inaugural national action plan on early childhood care and development.
Supporting Dual Language Learners (DLLs) and Immigrant-Origin Children
Decades of scientific evidence suggest that high-quality early education benefits all children, with substantially larger gains in learning among DLLs in low-income, immigrant families. However, much work is needed to understand the developmental contexts and processes of this increasingly diverse and fastest growing segment of U.S. child population.To inform the decisions of early childhood practitioners serving young DLLs, our team conducted an evaluation of early childhood assessments—purpose, developmental appropriateness, psychometric properties, and relevance—being considered for use in Head Start classrooms in Florida. This also resulted in a chapter in an edited volume, Handbook of Early Literacy Research (Snow & Oh, 2010), articulating key considerations when assessing developmental outcomes of young DLLs and future research priorities.
In a complementary line of research, her work is dedicated to expanding the notion of DLLs beyond their language background and literacy skills. In a mixed-methods study, Early Learning and Development among Asian Americans (ELDA), Dr. Park examines critical ecologies and processes of development for this increasingly diverse population of emergent bilingual and multilingual children. In particular she is interested in understanding how parents use translanguaging and community cultural wealth to promote early cognitive, language, and literacy skills among Emergent Asian bilingual children, and how these practices can help transform learning environments and cultivate culturally sustaining pedagoies in schools.
Understanding Parenting and Family Context of Early Childhood Development
The role of parenting and family context present promising policy levers (or family-level mediators) yet current evidence base and broad-based early childhood quality improvement efforts focus much less on the role of families and communities. To this effort, Dr. Park investigates parental investment in early learning and home learning environment with a particular attention to socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and culture. In particular she is interested in meaingful yet understudied ways in which non-dominant families invest and expand their young children's learning at home. The central aims of her study, FAMILY (Fathers And Mothers Investing in the Learning of Young Children), are to  expand and complicate dominant notions of critical parenting knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) by privileging the voices of parents of young children;  explore how family soecioeconomic factors might shape parenting during early childhood; and  render the labor of love, priorities and experiences of non-dominant parents who are most often left invisible and silenced in academic literature and policymaking process.
During her tenure on the Editorial Board for the Harvard Educational Review, she has chaired a special issue, Immigration, Youth and Education (Fall, 2011) and co-edited a book, Education for a Multicultural Society (2011). Exploring the intersection of developmental psychology and public policy, she co-authored chapters for the volumes Handbook of Early Childhood Development Programs, Practices, and Policies (Wiley, 2016), The Impact of Immigration on Children’s Development (Karger, 2012), and Handbook of Early Literacy Research (Guilford, 2010).
Dr. Park holds a BA and a M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania, an Ed.M. and an Ed.D. from Harvard University.
Ed.D., Human Development and Education, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education.
M.Ed., Educational Policy and Management, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education.
M.S.Ed., Early Elementary Education with Pennsylvania State Grades PreK-4 Teacher Certification, University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education.
B.A., Psychology, University of Pennsylvania.
Capotosto, L., Kim, J.S., Burkhauser, M., Park, S.O., Mulimbi, B., Donaldson, M., & Kingston, H.C. (2017). Family support of third-grade reading skills, motivation, and habits. AERA Open, 3(3), 1-16.
Park, S.O., & Yoshikawa, H. (2017). Contemporary immigration policy and early childhood development. In E. Votruba-Drzal and E. Dearing (Eds.), Handbook of Early Childhood Development Programs, Practices, and Policies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Weiland, C., Charles, D., Grace, E., & Park, S.O. (2017). Natural window of opportunity? Low-income parents’ responses to their children’s impending kindergarten entry. AERA Open, 3(1), 1-15. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332858416681509
Oh, S.S., & Yoshikawa, H. (2016). Contemporary immigration policy and early childhood development. In E. Votruba-Drzal and E. Dearing (Eds.), Handbook of Early Childhood Development Programs, Practices, and Policies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Warren, M.R., Park, S.O., & Tieken, M.C. (2016). The formation of community engaged scholars advancing equitable policy and practice: A collaborative approach to doctoral training in educational research. Harvard Educational Review, 86(4).
Schindler, H.S., Kholoptseva, J., Oh, S.S., Yoshikawa, H., Shonkoff, J.P., Duncan, G.J., & Magnuson, K. (2015). Maximizing the potential of early childhood education to prevent externalizing behavior problems: A meta-analysis. Journal of School Psychology, 53(3), 243-263.
Britto, P.R., Yoshikawa, H., Ponguta, L. A., Reyes, M., Oh, S.S., Dimaya, R., Nieto, A.M., & Seder, R. (2014). Strengthening systems for integrated early childhood development services: Cross-national analyses of governance. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1308, 245-255. A special issue on Integrated Interventions in Child Development and Nutrition, guest editors M. M. Black and K. Dewey.
Oh, S.S. & Yoshikawa, H. (2012). Examining spiritual capital and acculturation across ecological settings: Developmental implications for children and youth in diverse immigrant families. In Garcia Coll, C. (Ed.), Contributions to Human Development Vol. 24: The Impact of Immigration on Children’s Development (pp. 77-98). Basel, Switzerland: S. Karger AG.
Oh, S.S., & Cooc, N. (Special Issue Editors) (2011). Immigration, youth, and education. Harvard Educational Review, 81(3).
Oh, S.S., & Cooc, N. (2011). Immigration, Youth and Education: Editors’ Introduction. Harvard Educational Review, 81(3), 397-407.
Catone, K., Chung, C.K., & Oh, S.S. (2011). An appetite for change: Building relational cultures for educational reform and civic engagement in Los Angeles. In M. R. Warren, K. L. Mapp, and the Community Organizing and School Reform Project (Eds.), A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform, (Chapter 3, pp. 66-98). New York: Oxford University Press. [equal authorship]
Afolabi, K.P., Bocala, C., DiAquoi, R., Hayden, J.M., Liefshitz, I., & Oh. S.S. (Eds.) (2011). Education for a Multicultural Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. [equal authorship]
Snow, C.E., & Oh, S.S. (2010). Assessment in early literacy research. In S. B. Neuman and D. K. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook of Early Literacy Research. (Vol. 3, pp. 375-395). New York: Guilford Press.
Selected Invited Talks
Park, S.O. (2020). Genesis, Expansion, & Sustenance of Voice in Scholarly Writing. University of Washington, Seattle, WA, January 23.
Mickelson, S., Park S.O., & Wiltshire, L. (2019). State Policy-Research-Advocacy Partnerships in Driving PreK System Improvement. Partnership for PreK: A Conversation about Strengthening Early Learning Systems, Ounce of Prevension, Chicago, IL, June 20.
Park, S.O. (2017). Lifting Up Children of Immigrants. EduTalks: Raise Washington. Early Achievers Institute (with Child Care Aware of Washington and WA State Department of Early Learning). Spokane, WA, October 20.
Park, S.O. (2017). Early childhood development and parental investment among low-income, ethnically diverse families. University of Washington West Coast Poverty Center, Seattle, WA, January 23.
Park, S.O. (2016). Forum commentator on the AERA’s Centennial Lecture Series, “Early Education and the Brain: Making Novel Connections” (Dr. Bruce McCandliss), Seattle, WA, December 6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGmbcNz9JQ8&feature=youtu.be
Park, S.O. (2016). The evidence base linking parents’ unauthorized immigration status and developmental consequences for their children. Research and Evaluation Conference on Self-Sufficiency (RECS), Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Washington DC, June 1-3.
Oh, S.S. (2011). Writing Quantitative Research Report as a Three-Course Meal: How to Interpret & Present Statistical Results Accurately, Effectively, and Meaningfully. Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA, December 6.
Oh, S.S. (2011). Understanding Early Childhood Systems in Developing Countries. Early Childhood Education and Health, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, April 14.
Oh, S.S., & Yoshikawa, H. (2010). A Multisectoral Early Childhood Policy in Cambodia: An Analysis of Linkages Across Early Childhood Development Systems. Graduate-level Course H-265 Early Childhood Settings: Understanding, Observing, and Studying Quality, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA, November 9.
Oh, S.S. & Wood, J. (2010). Implementing PreK-3 Early Literacy Intervention Across Home and School: Closing the Early Literacy Proficiency Gap. Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Marlborough, MA, March 3.
ECFS 315 Parenting and Child Development: Socioeconomic and Cultural Influences in the Earliest Year of Life (Winter).
EDPSY 582 Parenting and Early Learning (Winter).
ECFS 410 Early Language and Literacy Development (Fall).
EDPSY 502 Developmental Foundations of Early Learning (Fall).
2019 PI, State Early Childhood Policy Analysis Using Big Data.
2019 Lead Faculty (PIs: Manka Varghese, Marge Plecki, Ana Elfers), A Roadmap to Reducing Barriers to Educational Injustice in Washington State. Washington Education Association.
2017-2021 Co-PI (Gail Joseph, PI), Cultivating Research-Policy-Practice Partnerships for Improving Prekindergarten Quality in Early Learning Exemplar States. Gates Foundation.
2016-2021 PI, Fathers and Mothers Investing in Learning of Young Children (FAMILY). University of Washington College of Education.
2011 Chair, A Shadow Population: Immigration Enforcement, Child Development, and America’s Future. Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean’s Advisory Committee on Equity and Diversity.
2010 PI, Defining and Measuring Parents’ Trust of Teachers in Urban Elementary Schools. Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Fellowships & Awards
2020 Distinguished Teaching Award (nominated), University of Washington
2020 AERA Division E Early Career Mentoring Program Recipient
2015-2016 SRCD Executive Branch Policy Fellowship (funded but declined)
2015 National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families, Summer Research Fellowship
2013 Virginia Hodgkinson Research Book Prize, Honorable Mention, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA)
2013-2014 Julius B. Richmond Fellowship (Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship), awarded to 3 doctoral students across Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child.
2011-2013 Harvey Fellowship, Mustard Seed Foundation
2007-2009 Roothbert Fund Dissertation Fellowship
2007-2009 Dean’s Fellowship Award, given to highly promising future professors or school leaders, Harvard Graduate School of Education (GSE)
2006 Klingenstein Summer Fellowship, Columbia University Teachers College