Kelly Purtell

Headshot of Kelly Purtell

Associate Professor, Department of Human Sciences

Program Area: Human Development and Family Science

(614) 688-1896

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Ohio State University Provost’s Midcareer Scholar Award, 2024

Foundation for Child Development Young Scholars Award, 2018

Distinguished Research Award, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University, 2018

Kelly Purtell is a Scarlet & Gray Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Science in the College of Education and Human Ecology. She is a faculty associate at the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy and a faculty affiliate of the Institute for Population Research.

Her research centers on understanding how contextual factors shape health and development among low-income children and adolescents, and on how policies and programs can enhance the developmental trajectories of these youth. Many of her current projects focus on policies and practices related to early childhood education and their influences on children’s development. The primary themes of her current work are:

1) understanding children’s experiences in the transition to kindergarten;

2) developing a comprehensive understanding of the classroom ecologies that children experience from preschool to grade 3, the policies that influence them, and the ways in which they shape children’s development;

3) examining the ways in which classroom age composition influences children’s learning and development in preschool;

4) understanding barriers to preschool and school attendance.


  • PhD, Developmental Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010
  • BA, Psychology, University of Connecticut, 2005

Research Interests


  • 2020-present: Associate Professor, Human Sciences, The Ohio State University
  • 2014-2020: Assistant Professor, Human Sciences, The Ohio State University
  • 2012-2014: F32 National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin
  • 2011-2014: Evaluation Consultant, Play to Learn Project, United Way for Greater Austin
  • 2010-2012: Postdoctoral Fellow, Human Development and Family Sciences, University of Texas at Austin
  • 2008-2010: Graduate Research Fellow, Carolina Institute for Public Policy

Selected Grants

Preschoolers’ Experiences and Activities in Childcare (PEACh):  This project is funded through the Institute of Education Sciences and seeks to improve our understanding of how classroom processes, teacher practices, and children’s interactions with peers in the classroom influence aspects of children’s preschool experiences. This project will provide valuable information relevant to policymakers, practitioners and researchers invested in improving children’s preschool experiences and their social development.

Kindergarten Transition Practices (KTP) is funded through the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences that aims to fundamentally advance our understanding of young children’s transition into kindergarten by testing a comprehensive, multi-pronged intervention designed to make the kindergarten transition seamless and productive for all children. This study examines the efficacy of a previously un-evaluated intervention, the Kindergarten Transition Practices intervention, based upon an Ecological Model (Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 2000), which emphasizes the connections among community, teachers, families, peers, and children as the primary mechanisms for successful kindergarten transition and adjustment.

Promoting Preschoolers’ Early Language Learning (ProPELL) is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences. This project explores the language gains that children make during early childhood programming and classroom factors and processes related to these gains.

Children’s Early Educational Experiences and their Social and Behavioral Development is funded by the National Institutes of Health and uses three large, national datasets to examine how preschool and kindergarten environments, and the alignment across them, shape young children’s social and behavioral development.

Understanding the Needs and Experiences of Early Head Start Children and Families Before and After COVID-19: A Nationally Representative Investigation is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and examines the stressors and supports of Early Head Start children and families during the pre- and post-pandemic periods.

Reducing Chronic Absenteeism in Columbus City Schools: A School District-University Partnership focuses on assessing the root causes of chronic absenteeism and evaluates Columbus City School’s attendance improvement strategies focused on prevention and early intervention among pre-K-12 students. 

Selected Publications

Logan, J. A., Piasta, S. B., Purtell, K. M., Nichols, R., & Schachter, R. E. (in press). Early childhood language gains, kindergarten readiness, and Grade 3 reading achievement. Child Development.

Sun, J., Justice, L. M., Jiang, H., Purtell, K. M., Lin, T. J., & Ansari, A. (in press). Big little leap: The role of transition difficulties in children’s skill development during kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 67.

Zimmermann, K.  Yang, Q., Ansari, A., & Purtell, K. M. (in press). An examination of the use and outcomes of readiness assessments, retention policies, and title 1 funding for kindergarten children in the United States. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 67.

Yang, Q., Zimmermann, K., Bartholomew, C. P., Purtell, K. M., & Ansari, A. (2023). Preschool Classroom Age Composition and Physical Literacy Environment: Influence on Children’s Emergent Literacy Outcomes. Early Education and Development, 1-18.

Dore, R. A., Purtell, K. M., Chen, J., & Justice, L. M. (2023). The Interplay among Parents’ Stress, Nonparental Childcare, and Child Language Development among Low-Income Toddlers. Early Education and Development, 34(6), 1447-1457.

Yang, Q., & Purtell, K. M. (2023). Preschoolers’ vocabulary skills and inhibitory control: The role of classroom engagement. Early Education and Development, 34(5), 1109-1127.

Yang, Q., Ansari, A., Purtell, K. M., Pianta, R. C., Whittaker, J. V., & Vitiello, V. E. (2023). Classroom skill compositions and preschoolers’ early academic and executive function outcomes. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 64, 290-301.

Jiang, H., Justice, L. M., Lin, T. J., Purtell, K. M., & Sun, J. (2023). Peer experiences in the preschool classroom: Contribution to Children’s academic development. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 86, 101542.

Bleses, D., Willemsen, M. M., Purtell, K. M., Justice, L. M., Slot, P., Dybdal, L., & Højen, A. (2023). Early childhood educator's implementation readiness and intervention fidelity: Findings from a person-centered study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 63, 156-168.

Dore, R.A., Purtell, K.M., Chen, J. & Justice, L.M. (2023). The interplay among parents’ stress, nonparental childcare, and child language development among low-income toddlers. Early Education & Development, 34, 1447-1457.

Purtell, K. M., & Ansari, A. (2022). Why are children absent from preschool?: A nationally representative analysis of Head Start programs. Frontiers in Educational Psychology.

Zimmermann, K., Yang, Q., Purtell, K., & Ansari, A. (2022). Pre-K attendance and social development: The moderating role of kindergarten classroom experiences. Infant and Child Development, e2360.

Purtell, K. M., Jiang, H., Justice, L. M., Sayers, R., Dore, R., & Pelfrey, L. (2022). Teacher perceptions of preschool parent engagement: Causal effects of a connection-focused intervention. Child & Youth Care Forum, 51, 937-966.

Justice, L. M., Jiang, H., Purtell, K. M., Lin, T.-J., Ansari, A. (2022). Academics of the early primary grades: Investigating the alignment of instructional practices from pre-K to third grade. Early Education and Development, 33(7), 1237-1255.

Yang, Q., Bartholomew, C., Ansari, A., & Purtell, K. M. (2022). Classroom age composition and preschoolers’ language and literacy gains: The role of classroom engagement. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 60, 49-58.

Purtell, K. M., Ansari, A., Yang, Q., & Bartholomew, C. P. (2021). The role of preschool peers in children’s language development. Seminars in Speech and Language, 42, 88-100. 

Jiang, H., Justice, L. M., Purtell, K. M., Lin, T., & Logan, J. A. R. (2021). Prevalence and prediction of kindergarten-transition difficulties. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 55, 15-23.

Purtell, K. M., Valauri, A., Rhoad-Drogalis, A., Jiang, H., Justice, L., Lin, T., & Logan, J. A. R. (2020). Understanding policies and practices that support successful transitions to kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 52, 5-14. 

Chaparro-Moreno, L. J., Justice, L. M., Logan, J. A. R., Purtell, K. M., & Lin, T. (2019). The preschool literacy environment: Children’s first-person experiences. PLOS One, 14:e0220227. 

Purtell, K. M., & Ansari, A. (2018). Classroom age composition and preschoolers’ school readiness: The implications of classroom quality and teacher qualifications. AERA Open, 4, 1-13.