Raising & Leveling the Bar: A Collaborative Research Initiative on Children's Learning, Behavioural, and Health Outcomes

Two of the milestones of Canada's Innovation strategy (HRDC, 2002) are that: (1) Canada becomes one of the top three countries in mathematics, science and reading achievement, and (2) all students who graduate from high school achieve a level of literacy sufficient to participate in the knowledge-based economy. To reach these milestones, Canada must raise levels of literacy, especially for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The aim of this collaborative research program is to bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers who can focus their research and training efforts on a single question: "How can we raise and level the bar?", or specifically "How can we improve the learning, behaviour, and health outcomes of our youth, while reducing inequalities associated with family background?".

The research is being carried out by a team of five senior scholars (Clyde Hertzman, Ann Gauthier, Noralou Roos, Richard Tremblay, and Doug Willms), and 21 up-and-coming scholars who are members of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research's New Investigators Network (CIAR-NIN). The team's work is supported by an International Advisory Board comprised of five senior scholars who are recognized leaders in the field of human development (Fraser Mustard, Catherine Peckham, Jose Soares, Fiona Stanley, and Michael Wolfson).

The core of the program is longitudinal research on children's development based on children's growth trajectories from birth to entry to the labour market. Canada's data on child development is arguably the best in the world. We have a suite of longitudinal surveys pertaining to the lives of children from birth to labour force entry. However, the potential of these data to contribute to Canadian research and policy is not fully realized. This research is using these data to address several policy issues relevant to "raising and leveling the bar". It focuses on five key strategies: (1) safeguard the healthy development of infants; (2) strengthen early childhood education; (3) improve schools and local communities; (4) reduce segregation and the effects associated with poverty; and (5) create a family-enabling society.


Three million dollars over four years provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities.

Research Team


  • Doug Willms (Principle Investigator)
  • Beth Fairbairn (Grant Manager)
  • Stacey Wilson-Forsberg (Knowledge Transfer Manager)
  • Elizabeth Sloat
  • Nicole Letourneau
  • Renjun Ma
  • Joan Beswick

Complete pan-Canadian Team - click here