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Carola Oliva-Olson

Senior Principal Education Researcher, SRI Education

Carola Oliva-Olson, PhD, has more than 30 years of experience in early childhood education, workforce development, technical assistance (TA), and research. She is a national expert on dual language learning, culture, and equity in higher education; early childhood programming; professional development; and teacher, child, and family interactions.

Before joining SRI, Oliva-Olson prepared future early childhood educators as an associate professor at California State University Channel Islands. In this role, she was the principal investigator for the California Department of Education’s Dual Language Learner Professional Development Grant and the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Early Initiatives Dual Language Learner Professional Development Grant. She also served as the lead expert in dual language learning at California Educare Silicon Valley and was appointed in 2020 to the California Governor’s Early Childhood Policy Council. Previously, as the Foundation for Child Development Young Scholar, she examined the effectiveness of classroom assessment instruments in preschool Head Start classrooms with children who are dual language learners (DLLs). She also worked on U.S. Department of Education grants focusing on DLLs and dialogic reading with children and families and collaborated with the Office of Head Start’s National Center on Culture and Linguistic Responsiveness, leading DLL efforts with Head Start grantees across the nation.

Oliva-Olson is the lead author of the Dual Language Supports (DLS) assessment and a measure of quality for programming and teaching practices in early learning settings, which will undergo validation in 2021. She has also worked as a disabilities and early learning specialist with the Migrant Head Start Project in Washington, DC, where she provided targeted TA across the U.S. She later worked as the TA specialist assigned to California, Nevada, and Arizona to support efforts focused on DLLs and quality teacher–child interactions. Finally, she worked with Dr. Linda Espinosa and the Los Angeles Unified School District to design and implement innovative approaches for educators to support young DLLs to have full access and effective participation in the learning experiences.

Oliva-Olson received her PhD in education with an emphasis on special education and applied linguistics from the University of California Santa Barbara in 2008, where she was also awarded the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation’s Early Care and Education Head Start Graduate Research Grant. She received her MS in preschool–primary education from Barry University and an applied literacy postgraduate certificate from Johns Hopkins University. She is a former bilingual early childhood coach and infant/toddler, preschool, kindergarten, first- and second-grade teacher.

Key projects

  • Preschool Development Grants Birth-5 Technical Assistance (PDG B-5 TA) Center
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