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Current Projects

Conducting and disseminating nonpartisan research and policy analysis

Current Projects

Founded in 2002, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) supports excellence and equity in early childhood education by conducting and disseminating nonpartisan research and policy analysis. The Institute is committed to promoting young children’s early learning and development through science and evidence-based policy making. NIEER’s signature product is an annual report on the state of preschool in America based on a survey of state pre-K programs that is now in its 11th year. NIEER researchers also work to support young learners through the design and development of high-quality curriculum, assessments, professional development and other supports for practice. NIEER has been awarded $70 million dollars in external funding since its inception.

NIEER is directed by W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D., an economist and Board of Governors Professor at Rutgers University. He leads a diverse team that carries out the Institute’s research using their combined backgrounds in education, human development, developmental psychology, public policy, economics, sociology, and statistics. The research team includes an Associate Director of Research, Dr. Milagros Nores, five additional Ph.D. research professors, two project directors, three research project coordinators, an assistant research project coordinators, a research support coordinator, a communications team, and a fiscal and administrative support team led by the Associate Director, Valerie Werstler. For media questions, please contact Michelle Ruess.


Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO). One of 22 Comprehensive Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education, CEELO will strengthen the capacity of State Education Agencies (SEAs) to lead sustained improvements in early learning opportunities and outcomes. PI: Steve Barnett. Senior Project Director: Lori Connors-Tadros.

State Preschool Yearbook is an annual publication tracking funding, access, and policies of state preschool programs since 2002. It serves as a resource for policymakers, advocates, and researchers to make more informed decisions as state-funded preschool education. PI: Steve Barnett; Coordinator: Rebecca Gomez.

PNC-NIEER: A Strategic Partnership in Support of Early Learning in the States. Supports PNC leadership in Grow Up Great policy activities. PIs: Steve Barnett.

U.S. Research and Program Evaluation

PHLpreK. NIEER received a $1.8 million grant from the William Penn Foundation  to conduct a three-year evaluation of Philadelphia’s preschool program and  provide the City with feedback on program design and implementation, as well as an analysis of impacts on children’s learning and development. The multi-site study will employ a combination of methods to assess PHLpreK program quality to provide guidance for building an excellent program that benefits local families and serves as a model for other programs throughout the nation. PI: Steven Barnett & Milagros Nores.

The evaluation is designed to be part of a continuous improvement process that will inform classroom practices, systems to support pre-K providers, and kindergarten-readiness. The evaluation will also include a review of the economic impacts of PHLpreK and the cost-effectiveness of the program in comparison with other interventions for young children. See City of Philadelphia press release.

PreK4SA Alignment Study. An evaluation in San Antonio, Texas of the alignment the kindergarten entry assessments, the content standards, and the classroom practices in the preschool program. PI: Shannon Riley-Ayers; Coordinator:Jessica Thomas Francis.

PNC Chicago Early Science Learning: Grow Up Great Evaluation. Evaluation of the PNC Foundation’s collaborative program to improve preschool children’s science learning opportunities in homes, classrooms, communities, and local science centers. PIs: Steve BarnettJessica Thomas Francis.

West Palm Beach Child Outcome Study. Evaluation of impacts on quality and children’s outcomes. PI: Steve Barnett; Coordinator: Jessica Thomas Francis.

Evaluation of Arkansas Better Chance for School Success. Evaluation of the Arkansas Better Chance preschool program. PI: Kwanghee Jung.

Documenting and Evaluating the Adaptation of the AVANCE Parent-Child Education Program for Diverse Cultures. Evaluation of model implementation and cultural adaptations as well as impacts on children and parents through a randomized trial. PI: Milagros Nores.

Preschool Inputs and Children’s Outcomes: What are the Costs and Benefits?   Chicago Public Schools randomized trials to improve cost-effectiveness of preschool education. PI: Steve Barnett.

A Randomized Trial of Dual Language Staffing Patterns. Evaluate preschoolers’ learning gains and preschool classroom quality effects of alternative staffing and teacher training to teach English Language Learners. PI: Steve Barnett; Coordinator: Alexandra Figueras-Daniel.

Seattle Preschool Program Evaluation. NIEER is currently working with Third Sector Intelligence, Inc. in a five year evaluation of Seattle’s newly initiated preschool program (SPP), sponsored by Seattle’s DEEL. This evaluation focuses on measuring and analyzing implementation of the SPP and children’s experiences in the SPP.  PIs: Steve Barnett & Milagros Nores.

A Study of the Impact of West Virginia’s Universal Pre-K Program. Currently under way, this evaluation is assessing the degree to which children who attend the prekindergarten program show greater progress on math, language, literacy, and social skill measures than children who do not attend the prekindergarten program. PIs: Shannon Riley-Ayers & Milagros Nores. Project Director: Alexandra Figueras-Daniel.

New Jersey: Supporting State Policy Development

NJDOE APPLES RDD & Pre-Post Study. Evaluates the long-term educational impact of pre-K in New Jersey on children’s learning and school success. PI: Steve Barnett.

New Jersey Implementation Guidelines for First through Third Grade. Develop the implementation guidelines for the state. Develop and implement effective professional development for implementation of the guidelines throughout the state. Co-PIs: Shannon Riley-Ayers and Sharon Ryan.

Grow NJ Kids Validation Study. Seeks to identify which aspects of the Grow NJ Kids Quality Rating Improvement System are effective at promoting program quality and impacting children’s development. Co-PIs: Steve Barnett,Kwanghee Jung, and Jessica Thomas Francis.

New Jersey Early Childhood Academy:  Co-sponsored by the NIEER, CEELO and the New Jersey Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood (NJDOE/DECE). The goal of the EC Academy is to build communities of practice among New Jersey school districts to provide support in their understanding of critical topics and their application to early childhood. PI: Shannon Riley-Ayers; Coordinator: Alexandra Figueras-Daniel.

New Jersey Kindergarten and Preschool Evaluation. Evaluates the basic features of quality in self-contained classrooms and examines instructional practices in general education and inclusion preschool classrooms to identify areas requiring additional supports. PI: Jessica Thomas Francis.

New Jersey Early Childhood Coach the Coaches Program: A professional learning community for master teachers in preschool and kindergarten. PI: Shannon Riley-Ayers; Coordinator: Alexandra Figueras-Daniel.

Kindergarten Continuous Improvement Cycle coaching in Passaic: This project uses the Continuous Improvement Cycle where the goal is to use data to inform decisions about how to improve the educational services provided. PI:Shannon Riley-Ayers; Coordinators: Alexandra Figueras-Daniel and Jorie Quinn.

International Research

AeioTu Randomized Longitudinal Study. Study of the cognitive, linguistic, nutritional and social effects of a comprehensive nutritional and educational 0-5 intervention in Colombia. Participants are 1,216 low-income children and their families. PI: Milagros Nores.

Partnership with the Korean Institute for Child Care and Education. Joint agreement for comparative research, faculty/student exchanges and co-editing International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy.


Using Number Games to Support Mathematical Learning in Preschool and Home Environments.

Involves the design, implementation, and testing of an early mathematics intervention for Head Start children and parents using interactive math game play. PI: Kimberly Brenneman; Co-I: Alissa Lange.

Part 1: Supports for Science and Mathematics Learning in Pre-Kindergarten Dual Language Learners: Designing a Professional Development System (SciMath-DLL).

With funding from the NSF, SciMath-DLL designs and tests professional development integrating high-quality math and science instruction with supports for preschool dual language learners (DLLs) partnering with Elizabeth, Long Branch, and Union City schools. PIAlissa Lange (formerly Kimberly Brenneman)

Part 2: Supports for Science and Mathematics Learning in PreKindergarten Dual Language Learners: Designing and Expanding a Professional Development System (SciMath-DLL).

Scales up and expands professional development supports to integrate high-quality math and science instruction with supports for preschool dual language learners (DLLs) partnering with Passaic early childhood centers in and funded by the NSF. PIAlissa Lange (formerly Kimberly Brenneman)

Backpacks Across Generations/Mochilas a través de generaciones.

Partnering with the Puerto Rican Action Board (PRAB), NIEER developed a series of science and math workshops and home activities for families of preschoolers in local Head Start classrooms. PI: Alissa Lange (formerly Kimberly Brenneman)

The Math and Science Story Time (MASST) Program.

Provides preschool-age children from New Brunswick the opportunity to participate in eight Spanish-English bilingual math and science story and activity sessions at the public library. PI: Alissa Lange.

Assessment and Curriculum

Early Learning Scale. Systematic assessment for preschool and kindergarten children designed for teachers to assess children’s progress toward learning standards. It is currently implemented in districts in New Jersey, all preschools in West Virginia and elsewhere throughout the country and internationally at a program in China. PI: Shannon Riley-Ayers.

Teacher Survey for Early Education Quality. Self-report survey for early childhood teachers regarding their classroom practices and quality. The TSEEQ may offer more cost-effective examination of classroom quality and is therefore a significant contribution to the field. PI: Shannon Riley-Ayers.

NYC Analytics. Evaluation of the validity and reliability of early childhood assessments for the New York City Department of Education. PI: Alissa Lange.

Using Technology to Improve Reading Fluency in Third Graders. Evaluates the impacts of a technology-based reading fluency program on the reading skills of third graders who are behind in reading through a RCT in Newark. PI:Alissa Lange.