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Faculty & Research

Catherine Snow

John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education

Catherine Snow

Degree:  Ph.D., McGill University, (1971)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.495.3563
Fax:  617.495.5771
Vitae/CV:   Catherine Snow.pdf
Office:  Larsen 313
Faculty Assistant:  Ela Sikorska


Catherine Snow is an expert on language and literacy development in children, focusing on how oral language skills are acquired and how they relate to literacy outcomes. Her current research activities include a study of how Boston Public School early childhood classrooms are supporting children's development, and participation in a long-standing research-practice partnership (the Strategic Education Research Partnership, SERP) that is developing curricular tools to support teachers in introducing innovative classroom practices. Word Generation, a discussion-based academic language and literacy program developed by SERP, has been shown to improve middle-school literacy outcomes, in particular for students from language-minority homes. 

Click here to see a full list of Catherine Snow's courses.

Areas of Expertise

Morningstar Teaching Award, Harvard Graduate School of Education,(2004)

Honorary Degree, University of Nijmegen,(2003)

Carnegie Corporation of New York, Institute for Statewide Literacy Initiatives,(2002)

Charles A. Ferguson Fellow, Center for Applied Linguistics,(2001)

Spencer Senior Scholar Award,(1999)

American Educational Research Association (AERA) Grant

Sponsored Projects


High-quality math instruction across prekindergarten auspice (2020-2022)
Regents of the University of Michigan



High-quality instruction across prekindergarten auspice: An implementation study (2019-2023)
Foundation for Child Development

In April 2019, the Mayor of Boston announced the city would pursue offering preschool to all four-year olds in the city, with seats added primarily at community-based preschools partnering with the Boston Public Schools Department of Early Childhood (DEC). In Fall 2019, the city will add 480 preschool seats, with another 500 seats planned over thefollowing several years. New sites are expected to implement core elements of the BPS preK model, including language-, literacy-, and math-specific curricula shown to be effective, supported by coaching and training. UPK teachers also receive salary support, commensurate with the starting salary on the BPS scale (though not equalized benefits). With support from FCD, we will study this expansion to identify the pre-intervention capacities that influence highquality implementation of the BPSÂ’s preK model in community-based preschools, to identify any adaptations needed to support the CBOs. Our focal population is the directors, teachers, and children in the initial set of expansion sites. Support from FCD would fund classroom observations, surveys, qualitative data collection, child assessments, analysis, writing, anddissemination to key audiences. We expect our findings will by relevant to other contexts, as almost all preK systems nationally are mixed auspice but there is almost no research to guide policy and practice to ensure such mixed systems are strong and equitable.


Un Buen Comienzo, An Initiative to Improve Preschool Education in Chile - Phase III (2017-2018)
Fundacion Educacional Oportunidad

Since 2011, the UBC Project has been implemented in 110 schools in the VI Region and Metropolitan Regions. Through a 2-year professional development program that incorporates continuous quality improvement methods, UBC provides classroom teams and school leaders training and in-classroom coaching to maximize language instructional strategies, instructional time, effective interactions and attendance. Thus, the UBC + CQI Implementation is faithful to the original program design developed by the Fundación Educacional Oportunidad (OFE) and HGSE, with incorporation of new elements to strengthen the program: 1. Reinforcing the work with the school administrative teams to promote institutionalization of the UBC strategies. 2. Introduction of the ‘continuous quality improvement’ (CQI) approach to improve local relevance and sustainability. CQI requires regular collection, analysis, and transmission of data relevant to the implementation, testing and ongoing evaluation of the program. The evaluation activities are designed to provide feedback and guidance to the implementation teams, to evaluate impact and to assess learning and harvest successful innovations. This approach is novel in Chile and in education globally. 3. Innovation of content-related expertise related to instructional strategies, effective interactions and curriculum development. This grant will enable Chilean early childhood educators to benefit maximally from the research: 1. Extending the UBC-CQI work to the point where it can be continued with minimal external support in the 28 schools where we are now working. 2. Processing and reporting data from UBC-CQI classrooms to evaluate the effectiveness of the approach and factors related to variations in its effectiveness. 3. Developing professional development materials for introducing and implementing research-based approaches to ensure quality in the Chilean early childhood education context more broadly; one option is an online open-school type of resource, first in Spanish and then in English, potentially partnering with IHI or the Carnegie Foundation 4. Defining the parameters for establishing the Foundation as the Latin American Center of Expertise on best practices to improve Early Child Development through professional development using CQI


ExCEL P-3: Promoting Sustained Gains from Preschool to Third Grade (2016-2021)
Laura and John Arnold Foundation

MDRC is conducting the ExCEL P-3: Promoting Sustained Growth from Preschool to Third Grade Study which will study how instruction across K1, K2, and early elementary school grades can strength children’s cognitive and social emotional skills. Professors Catherine Snow and Lesaux will be responsible for:•Conceptualizing how to analyze the data collected about opportunities to learn within Boston Public Schools and community based (CB) classrooms to identify and distinguish supports for constrained vs. unconstrained skills (Snow)•Ensuring that the kinds of classroom fidelity and quality data collected are aligned with the goals and specifications of the 1st and 2nd grade curricula being implemented (Lesaux)•Strategizing to ensure that the data are collected and interpreted in ways that take into account the developmental trajectories of Dual Language Learners as well as native English speakers (Snow and Lesaux)•Participating in the writing of reports and manuscripts based on the findings (Snow and Lesaux)•Contribute expertise, review and provide feedback on the development of fidelity observation protocols and measures (Lesaux and Snow)•Participating in planning and carrying out data collection focused on child assessments (Snow and Lesaux)


Supporting Early Learning from Preschool Through Elementary School Grades: Research Network Proposal (2016-2021)

The research team will work in collaboration with Boston Public Schools to identify policies, classroom-level factors, and school experiences that are associated with children's school success during pre-k and early elementary school grades. The researchers will collect qualitative and quantitative data to address three issues: 1) How students' cumulative experiences within and across settings affect their development over time 2) How students' characteristics and skills interact dynamically with the settings in which they find themselves3) How these interactions shape children's experiences and developmental trajectories. The researchers theorize that sustaining pre-k gains, optimizing learning in K–3 (regardless of pre-k experiences), and acquiring excellent academic, cognitive, and social-emotional skills by the end of third grade will depend on which skills have been targeted and how.


National Research and Development Center for English Language Learners (2012-2012)
University of Houston



Snow, C.E., Griffin, P., Burns, M.S. and the NAE Subcommittee on Teaching Reading. Knowledge to support the teaching of reading: Preparing teachers for a changing world. Jossey-Bass.,(2005)

Sweet, A. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Rethinking Reading Comprehension. New York: The Guilford Press.,(2003)

Strickland, D., Snow, C., Griffin, P., Burns, M.S., and McNamara, P. Preparing our teachers: opportunities for better reading instruction. Washington, DC: J. Henry Press.,(2002)

Blum-Kulka, S. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Talking to adults. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.,(2002)

Adger, C. T., Snow, C. E., & Christian, D. (Editors). What Teachers Need to Know About Language. Washington, DC, and McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems Co., Inc.,(2002)

Ready, T., Edley, C. Jr., & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Achieving high educational standards for all. Washington DC: National Academy Press.,(2001)

Verhoeven, L. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Motivation and reading: Cultural and social perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.,(2001)

Burns, M.S., Griffin, P., & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Starting out right: A guide to promoting children’s reading success. Washington DC: National Academy Press.,(1999)

Snow, C.E., Burns, S. & Griffin, P. (Editors). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.,(1998)

Ninio, A. & Snow, C.E. Pragmatic Development. Boulder: Westview Press.,(1996)

Sokolov, J.L. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Handbook of research in language development using CHILDES. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.,(1994)

Snow, C.E., Barnes, W.S., Chandler, J., Hemphill, L., and Goodman, I.F. Unfulfilled expectations: Home and school influences on literacy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.,(1991)

Conti-Ramsden, G. & Snow, C.E. (Editors). Children's language: Volume 7. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.,(1990)

Cazden, C. & Snow, C.E. (Issue editors). English plus: Issues in bilingual education. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 508.,(1990)

Snow, C.E. (Issue editor). The social context: Language development and language disorders. Topics in Language Disorders, Vol. 4, No. 4, September.,(1984)

Waterson, N. and Snow, C.E. (Editors). The development of communication. London: John Wiley.,(1978)

Snow, C.E. and Ferguson, C.A. (Editors). Talking to children: Language input and acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.,(1977)

Tervoort, B., van der Geest, A., Hubers, G., Prins, R., and Snow, C.E Psycholinguistiek (Psycholinguistics). Aula paperback 481, Amsterdam: Het Spectrum.,(1972)


Chair, RAND Reading Study Group,(2000-2002)

Editor, Applied Psycholinguistics,(1984-2002)

President, American Educational Research Association,(1999-2000)

Chair, Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences

Cofounder, Child Language Data Exchange System

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