Center for Early Learning and Childhood Development

Mission Statement

The overall mission of the center is to provide exemplary training, research, and service for children between birth and eight years of age, their families and the personnel who work with them. This mission includes both children with and without disabilities.

The training mission focuses on providing a wide range of didactic and experiential opportunities for initial and advanced training in early childhood education, special education and related professions.

The research mission encompasses applied studies of factors affecting cognitive, social and emotional behavior as well as the testing of methods for enhancing development and learning in young children.

The service mission is to provide model programs, instruction, and supportive services for typically developing children and children with special needs, their families and other early childhood service providers.

Goals and Objectives

The overall goal of the center is to achieve external funding for and to carry out projects consistent with the center's training, research, and service missions and to effectively disseminate information about these projects to both professional and lay audiences.

Some selected objectives of the center are to:

  • Pursue and secure funding to provide a range of high quality, exemplary training experiences.
  • Conduct studies of literacy, classroom adjustment, behavior problems and social development in young children.
  • Examine the long-term development of children at high risk for developmental delays or disabilities.
  • Provide innovative services and assist other early education and intervention programs in their delivery of services,
  • Advocate for validated practices at the local, state, regional and national levels.


The Center for Early Childhood Learning and Development, founded in 1985, focuses on research, teaching and service to children from birth to age eight, their families and the personnel who interact with them. Starting out as the smallest Center of Excellence in Tennessee, the center has grown dramatically over the years. It began as an outgrowth of ETSU's Child Study Center and the broad interdisciplinary interest in children and families expressed among ETSU faculty.

Research and Funded Activity

Over the years, the center's record of attracting external funding has expanded from two projects annually to eight. All funded projects are used to provide an applied research base to support new approaches and improvements in child care, education, early inter- vention and personnel development. Examples of major projects include:

TECTA, the Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance, a subcontract developing and delivering training for child care providers, funded by the Tennessee Department of Human Services through a contract with Tennessee State University.

Supporting Families, a project serving high risk infants and families, funded by the Tennessee Developmental Disabilities Council.

STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Programming), First Stage, and Respond; all federally supported training projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education to prepare personnel in early childhood special education and severe disabilities.

A federally funded research project that identified critical school adjustment and social skills for preschool and elementary aged children.

Dr. Wesley Brown reading to students at the Child Study Center

Educational Opportunities

The center provides educational opportunities to more than 1,300 ETSU students and regional professionals annually. The center is involved with faculty and students from 13 ETSU departments in six colleges. Additionally, the center has extensively supported ETSU academic programs in the Department of Human Development and Learning through teaching and service. Center faculty have participated in the development of new undergraduate and graduate degree programs in early childhood development and early childhood special education. These programs have grown in reputation and in numbers of faculty and students,

Through its operation of the Child Study, the center provides training opportunities for students and professionals. Mentoring programs are provided for graduate assistants and early childhood supervising teachers.

Children First, a Program which works with over 200 families each year and is part of a statewide early intervention network, serves as a training site for early childhood special education and nursing students as well as medical students and residents.

The Developmental Pediatrics Training Program works with the Department of Pediatrics to provide opportunities and experiences in developmental pediatrics for pediatric residents. It has served as a pilot for a new federally funded proposal submitted this year.

Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance has developed training for a network of sites in Tennessee and provided basic early childhood training during its first 18 months to 120 child care providers in eight counties.

A variety of other service delivery and demonstrations programs have been conducted to serve Tennessee children and families while providing training opportunities for professionals and paraprofessionals.

Services Provided

The direct goal of many of the projects funded through the center is to provide services to Tennessee children. The center provides model programs and service activities regarding exemplary approaches for serving both typically developing children and those with disabilities. These programs have been recognized for their positive impact at the regional, state and national levels. Center personnel have received three ETSU distin- guished faculty awards, including those designated for both outstanding teaching and outstanding research. They have also received state and federal appointments to commissions and advisory councils. The director was recently recognized by Governor McWherter for his service with developing state programs in Tennessee.


In the second decade for the Center for Early Childhood Learning and Development, we will continue our well established directions related to early childhood: to achieve national prominence, to contribute knowledge and service, to enhance teaching and learning, and to attract funds to support our mission.