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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 16, Issue 11

March 17, 2017

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Little Town in the Big Leagues, Teamwork, and How to Slice Pie (Charts)

Hot Topics

Little Town in the Big Leagues

The Hechinger Report this week explored why six states—Idaho, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and Montana—have bucked the trend of investing in preschool and spend no state funds for early education. Resistance to public spending on preschool runs deep in these states, which are “home to voters and politicians who strongly believe in family autonomy and minimal government intervention,” according to the article.

However, pressure for change is mounting. With nearly 60 percent of Idaho’s young children living in households with all parents working outside the home, and 49 percent of Idaho’s kindergartners showing up not knowing letters or how to hold a book, even skeptics are seeking new solutions.

One legislative proposal would provide online educational materials to stay-at-home parents, create preschool cooperatives and offer stipends to parents who prepare their children to start kindergarten… and one Idaho city has long been ahead of the state curve.

Since 1999, Idaho City school district has offered every four-year-old in town public preschool. The program was launched by philanthropists, and the district later shifted to federal dollars in lieu of local taxes. More recently, residents adopted a property tax in 2014 and renewed it in 2016 to pay for the program. The optional program serves 18 students, most of next year’s Kindergarten, two or three days a week.

Idaho City (population 459) may be small and rural, but its commitment to universal preschool puts it in the big leagues—and ahead of some of our largest cites.

Universal preschool was one of the criteria assessed by a CityHealth initiative that recently evaluated our nation’s 40 largest cities on “policies that can make real, lasting impacts in people’s everyday quality of life” such as sick leave policies, housing, air quality, tobacco and alcohol sales—and universal preschool.

The analysis of universal preschool policies by NIEER resulted in just eight gold medals—for programs in Boston, New York City, Washington DC, Baltimore, Charlotte, Nashville, Memphis, and Oklahoma City.

These cities—along with Idaho City—recognize the value of high-quality early education for both the healthy development of children and the quality of family life. As national leaders, they offer lessons learned and paths to follow.

New on Preschool Matters…Today!

Better Together

“When I first started out as a classroom teacher, I remember feeling isolated because of the minimal contact I had with my colleagues. Eventually, I found my way to a school where I had a mentor, collaborative teaching sessions, and professional development. Had I not found that opportunity to ask questions, brainstorm solutions, and learn from some incredible early learning educators, I might have left the profession.

Even as a young teacher, I recognized the value in tapping the knowledge and experience of my colleagues. Collaboration is now recognized as a key element of education success, expanding horizons, enriching perspectives and encouraging innovation. Educators love to learn and collaboration enables us to benefit from (someone else’s) experience,” writes GG Weisenfeld, Assistant Research Professor at NIEER and CEELO.

NIEER Activities

Giving Young Students a Bigger Slice of the Pie (Chart)

NIEER Associate Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers recently co-authored a blog with Sharon Ryan, Ed.D., chair of the GSE Department of Learning and Teaching at Rutgers, NIEER Assistant Research Professor Alexandra Figueras-Daniel, and Vincent J. Costanza, Ed.D., executive director of the Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge & Co-Administrator, Division of Early Childhood Education and Family Engagement in the New Jersey Department of Education.

The blog updates their work with 20 New Jersey school districts partnering with NIEER, the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University and NJ DOE to help students in kindergarten through third grade build strong educational foundations needed to succeed in school and in life.

“Ever ask a child what they did in school? Often the reply is “Nothing” or “I don’t remember.” Or, maybe, “Stuff.”  You just can’t rely on young students to explain what they learned, how they learned it or if lessons are appropriate. So as scholars and policymakers, we have set out to answer the question of just how New Jersey’s young children do spend their days in school.”

CEELO Update

Uses and Misuses of Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Results

CEELO this week shared a new The Ounce of Prevention Fund paper meant to help state and local education policymakers understand how to use KRA results appropriately. The paper discusses beneficial uses of kindergarten readiness assessment and explains why states should not use kindergarten readiness assessment results as part of an accountability system for individuals—children, early learning providers, or teachers.

CEELO also published its March Impact newsletter focusing on collaboration and featuring the perspective of CEELO’s GG Weisenfeld, former Director of Hawaii’s Executive Office on Early Learning; a discussion with Debra Anderson of Smart Start Oklahoma and Sharon Morgan, director of early childhood for the Oklahoma Department of Educatio; and updated resources on early education in ESSA.


The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11

(ECLS-K:2011) is a longitudinal study that followed a nationally representative sample of students from their kindergarten year to the spring of 2016, when most of the students were in fifth grade. The public-use kindergarten through second-grade data file includes information collected during the fall and spring of the 2010-11 school year (when the students were in kindergarten), the fall and spring of the 2011-12 school year (when most of the students were in first grade), and the fall and spring of the 2012-13 school year (when most of the students were in second grade).

The study provides information on students’ status at entry to school, their transition into school, and their progression through the elementary grades. The longitudinal nature of the ECLS-K:2011 data enables researchers to study how a wide range of family, school, community, and individual factors are associated with educational, socioemotional, and physical development over time.

The data, user’s manual, and electronic codebook can be downloaded directly from the ECLS data products page:

For more information about the ECLS-K:2011, please visit

The data and documentation are products of the National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Education.

How Will States Handle New Title I Powers with Minimal Federal Oversight?

An article recently published by Bellwether Education Partners examines next steps under new Every Student Succeeds Act guidelines from USDOE, noting “a little known ESSA provision could change the shape of Title I spending in schools, and under new guidelines, states don’t even have to describe their plans for implementing this new power.”

“Light oversight is no excuse for states to take it easy,” the article warns. “States should not just rubber-stamp requests for flexibility when it comes to Title I when there is so much at stake for low-income students, and advocates should push for more specifics on how states will ensure Title I money is well-spent.”

Money Matters in Education Justice: Addressing Race and Class Inequities in Pennsylvania’s School Funding System

While the Pennsylvania General Assembly debates the next education budget, the PA Education Law Center released a report detailing race and class inequities in Pennsylvania’s school funding system.

The report highlights how “persistent state underfunding of schools has entrenched widespread inequities and inequalities, particularly in schools that serve lower-income families and large numbers of students of color.”

Improving school readiness of high-risk preschoolers: Combining high quality instructional strategies with responsive training for teachers and parents

This study published by Science Direct evaluated whether the combination of two proven interventions, one in Head Start classrooms, and one in the home, resulted in enhanced effects on at-risk three- to five-year-old children’s school readiness skills when compared to either of these interventions alone. Teachers and parents were trained to use a responsive style and strategies that supported children’s school readiness skills with the goal of providing children consistency in responsive practices across the school and home environments.



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.

Early Education in the News

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

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