Lab Schools Investments Initiative (LSII)

This initiative supports current early childhood educators in Connecticut and helps recruit the next generation of professionals. It’s a partnership between the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU).

We’re investing federal COVID-19 relief funds in early childhood lab schools to:

  • Sustain and grow the number of young children enrolled in lab schools
  • Provide early childhood higher education students with first-hand experiences with young children
  • Boost the number of students studying early childhood education in colleges and universities
  • Recruit and retain the future workforce
  • Offer professional development to current early childhood educators in center-based and family child care programs in Connecticut

Watch a video of the LSII kick-off meeting

What are lab schools?

Lab schools are early care and education programs associated with for-credit college or university training programs. They provide high-quality programming to children and their families.

Lab schools also give college or university students who are studying early childhood education a chance to work directly with children in classrooms that are:

  • Licensed
  • Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Just like a chemistry or physics lab, lab schools offer students hands-on experiences in the field. They model the core ethics, knowledge, skills, and competencies of early childhood educators.

In our definition, lab schools:

  • Serve young children and their families in higher education institutions and their communities
  • Play a critical role in teaching developmentally and culturally appropriate curricula and advancing equitable practices for all young children and families
  • Promote the field among high school and higher education students to strengthen the early childhood education workforce pipeline
  • Provide professional development to community providers to extend their education and credentials, enhance their professionalism, inspire their commitment, and increase their earning potential
  • Emphasize the importance of accreditation and high-quality practices
  • Are recognized as regional centers of excellence in early childhood education

What schools are receiving funding?

We’ve allocated the money to 11 participating colleges and universities and their lab schools. Only existing lab schools — or lab schools in development — that are on or near campus were eligible to receive funds. They also had to be:

  • Linked with the institution’s credit-bearing early childhood education program
  • Providing early childhood programming
  • Using students in the classroom as paid staff or trainees
  • Enrolled or in the process of enrolling in the Connecticut Early Childhood Professional Registry
  • Accredited or in the process of Early Learning Program Accreditation by NAEYC

In addition, the institutions’ early childhood higher education academic programs also have to be NAEYC-accredited or in the process of earning accreditation.

Benefits of the initiative

This National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) reflects NAEYC “Power to the Profession” effort across the country to increase alignment between early childhood education programs and:

  • State and national standards and competencies
  • Foundational documents such as NAEYC position statements, OEC frameworks, and coursework

Lab schools use funds from the initiative to:

  • Stabilize their programs financially
  • Maintain or increase child enrollment
  • Provide professional development to their staff and community providers

Building a strong system of lab schools helps early childhood programs at colleges and universities and their students too. This initiative:

  • Supports the quality of coursework and applied field experiences
  • Gives students the chance to see what they learn about in their coursework come to life in classrooms serving infants, toddlers, and preschoolers
  • Provides students with experiences that make them more competitive in the job market
  • Boosts enrollment and attracts new faculty
  • Increases collaboration between lab school teachers and directors and higher education professors and administrators in higher education

Right now, each lab school is developing a Professional Leadership Roadmap. These will show how each institution plans to use the funding. We’ll share profiles for each institution on this webpage.

How much funding is available?

We’ve allocated funding to 11 Connecticut colleges and universities. Each funded institution is receiving between $100,000 and $300,000 total.

The $3.8 million in funding came from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Continued funding for two more years of ARPA funding has been proposed for 2024 and 2025.

Review the federal application form

See the ARPA Stabilization Funding Application Form that lab schools and institutions used to apply.

Take action

Connecticut’s Lab Schools Investments Initiative is part of a larger NAEYC effort to increase alignment between early childhood programs and state and national early childhood education standards. So whether your program is an LSII-funded lab school or not, you can explore ways to build your skills and strengthen your program.

Schedule an observation visit to a lab school

Whether you’re a center-based or family child care educator, director, student, parent, or family member, you can visit our Connecticut lab schools. Experience firsthand the exciting work that’s going on in Connecticut’s lab school classrooms!


We’re happy to answer questions about the Lab Schools Investments Initiative. Send us an email.

Last updated February 13, 2024