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NIEER's weekly newsletter for the latest in early education news

NIEER Weekly

Volume 16, Issue 10

March 10, 2017

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Changes in math and literacy skills over time

Hot Topics

Kids Today

A new study by Daphna Bassok and Scott Latham published in Educational Researcher finds that students who entered kindergarten in 2010 had stronger math and literacy skills than those who entered in 1998.

Increases in academic skills were especially strong for black children. Changes from 1998 are even larger at the end of kindergarten than at the beginning.

The authors speculate that improvements in the quality of early education might be responsible for some of the otherwise unexplained improvement at kindergarten entry.

We recommend reading the paper for insights into how children’s skills have changed (also what has not changed) and what might explain the observed changes.

New on Preschool Matters…Today!

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Seen any good movies lately? NIEER Associate Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers recently joined a group of pre-service and graduate students in education at Centenary University to watch School’s Out.

The film takes the viewer into the “Forest Kindergarten,” an outdoor school for four- to seven-year-olds in northern Switzerland. Students are outdoors every day, regardless of the weather, and explore and play for most of the day, climbing trees (way too high some may say), playing in creeks (with lots of mud), climbing mountains, and even whittling with a pocket knife…

…the film makes the case that skills, strategies, and competencies children obtain through this unique setting are both critical and replicable in more traditional US schools.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Assistant Research Professor Alexandra Figueras-Daniel recently participated in The Preschool Development and Expansion Grant Technical Assistance Program’s (PDG TA) webinar on Identifying and Assessing Young Dual Language Learners. PDG TA’s resource page features a range of webinars and relevant presentations.

CEELO Update

Implementing a Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA) System

CEELO this week shared a Fast Fact brief reviewing experiences from states implementing KEAs, identifying key data points and reporting, and understanding what teacher and administrator supports and conditions are necessary.

This is the third Fast Fact focused on KEA. Previous briefs include Using Teaching Strategies GOLD® within a Kindergarten Entry Assessment System and a state scan of Assessment Tools Used in Kindergarten Entry Assessment.


The American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey: Study Progress and Selected Findings from the First National Study of Tribal Head Start Program

Despite a wealth of information about  Head Start children and families in general, the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES), has not historically included Region XI programs due to tribal concerns about research, unique protocols for research involving sovereign tribal nations, and resource-intensive planning and implementation according to best tribal practices, according to this survey.

This lack of data has hampered efforts to assess needs facing children and families in Region XI and  inform policies and practices for addressing those needs. This American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (AI/AN FACES) strives to address the gap with tribal voices at the forefront.

The survey looked at child and family characteristics, children’s language, literacy and cultural experiences, family resources and needs, and children’s development. Initial findings include:

  • About 86 percent of children attending Region XI Head Start and Early Head Start programs are AI/AN children
  • Most children live with parents and 23 percent of households include a grandparent or great-grandparent
  • Most households (73 percent) report no financial strain or food insecurity
  • Most children speak English as their primary language, with tribal language spoken in one-third of homes
  • Nearly 90 percent of parents say children learning tribal language is important
  • Most children (80 percent) report engaging in at least one community cultural activity in the past month, such as games, listening to stories, hunting, dancing or drumming, ceremonies or arts and crafts
  • Although 47 percent of children served are newly entering three-year-olds, only 26 percent are returning students, indicating a low rate of multi-year participation

The U.S. Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation produced a webinar reviewing the American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (AI/AN FACES), including study planning, design, and features.

Powerpoint Presentation accompanies the webinar highlighting initial findings based on child assessments, parent surveys, and teacher reports from the fall 2015 data collection, representative of Region XI Head Start programs run by tribal communities.

Alive Under 5

Since 1990, the number of children worldwide under the age of 5 who are dying has declined by more than half—that’s an estimated 122 million children whose lives have been saved.  A special design project with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation illustrates the progress—and challenges—in children’s health worldwide. The project features five all-star designers humanizing the data and bringing these compelling stories to life in hopes of engaging a larger audience.

Head Start CARES Demonstration: National Evaluation of Three Approaches to Improving Preschoolers’ Social and Emotional Competence

Research Connections recently added a new file to the Head Start CARES Study reflecting results of tests of three distinct approaches to enhancing children’s social-emotional development within the Head Start system. The three evidence-based social-emotional interventions selected for the Head Start CARES evaluation included: The Incredible Years Teacher Training Program, Preschool PATHS, and a one-year version of Tools of the Mind—Play. 
“Low-income preschool children experience greater risks to their social and emotional development than their more affluent peers. These gaps are observed before children begin their formal schooling, and they remain or increase during the elementary school years,” the summary states. “Since social and emotional risks may compromise children’s future mental health and peer relationships, addressing them is important…”

Does Universal Preschool Hit the Target? Program Access and Preschool Impacts

Despite substantial interest in preschool as a means of narrowing the achievement gap, little is known about how particular program attributes might influence the achievement gains of disadvantaged preschoolers. This working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds “universal state-funded prekindergarten programs generate substantial positive effects on the reading scores of low-income 4-year-olds. State pre-K programs targeted toward disadvantaged children do not. 
Differences in other pre-K program requirements and population demographics cannot explain the larger positive impacts of universal programs,” according to the paper. “...these findings suggest that universal preschools offer a relatively high-quality learning experience for low-income children…”

A Troubling Contagion: The rural 4-day school week

A new Brookings publication examines an emerging trend of rural districts adopting a four-day school week by adding roughly 30 to 90 minutes to each day that students are in school, then assigning projects and encouraging parent and community groups to organize study halls and enrichment activities on the fifth day. 
Underway in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Montana, the shorter week was intended to save money by reducing transportation, heating, janitorial, and clerical costs, the report states. “However, savings have been elusive because so many costs—most importantly teacher salaries and equipment leases—are fixed…(and)  veteran teachers are also concerned that longer days don’t work for the youngest students.” 



NIEER is seeking a Research Professor/Co-Director to assume major leadership responsibilities for the development and management of research, development of assessments including assessments of practice, and the provision of professional development and technical assistance relating to systems design and large-scale implementation of early learning initiatives.

To apply, please use this link provided by Rutgers University. Applicants are expected to provide a cover letter, CV, and three letters of recommendation.

University of Delaware

The University of Delaware is searching for a Deputy Dean to help advance the research mission of our College of Education and Human Development. The Deputy Dean will teach one course per year and maintain an active program of scholarship.  
Reporting to the Dean, the Deputy Dean’s primary responsibility will be to advance the research mission of the College. The Deputy Dean, with other faculty, will implement the College’s mentoring program for junior faculty, helping them launch their careers as scholars. The Deputy Dean will also collaborate with faculty to create new structures that engage undergraduate and graduate students in the College’s research mission. In addition, this individual will work closely with doctoral program coordinators and faculty to foster the development of innovative graduate programs, ones that attract outstanding graduate students and contribute to the reputation of the College.


Strong Foundations: The Economic Futures of Kids and Communities 
March 23-24, 2017 
Washington, D.C. 

The Federal Reserve System will hold its Tenth Biennial Community Development Research Conference, Strong Foundations: The Economic Futures of Kids and Communities, on March 23-24, in Washington, D.C.

The conference will bring together experts from multiple disciplines to present emerging research on the interplay between child development and community development. Featured speakers include Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Harlem Children’s Zone President Geoffrey Canada.

There will be an Early Childhood track, which will be of interest to early care and education professionals and policymakers. Featured panelists include Max Crowley, Pennsylvania State University; M. Caridad Araujo, Inter-American Development Bank; and Arthur J. Reynolds, University of Minnesota.

Register here. Questions about this event? Email

Urban Teaching Matters Conference 2017
Saturday April 22, 2017
New Brunwick, NJ

Please join the Rutgers Graduate School of Education (Teacher Education Programs) presents its 3rd annual Urban Teaching Matters conference, an exciting event by and for urban educators, designed for mutual exchange of ideas, support and inspiration. Please join this gathering of alumni, allies working in the field, and committed educators harnessing their wisdom and experience in collective effort to ensure our youth in urban schools reach their full potential. We are currently accepting proposals for conference presentations. The conference registration fee is $10. 
For questions, please email Please RSVP here.

Early Education in the News

ICYMI: Read this week’s key stories on early childhood education issues.

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