Menu Close

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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 16, Issue 18

May 5, 2017

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Raising the Bar; Smooth Transitions and Who Gets Hired

Hot Topics

Raising the Bar on Benchmarks

NIEER will soon publish this year’s State of Preschool Yearbook, the only national report on state-funded pre-K programs with detailed information on teacher qualifications, enrollment, funding and other dimensions of early education policy.

This year, we introduce a new set of benchmarks for policies relating to quality for the first time since the Yearbook was launched in 2003, though for now we will still report the old benchmarks, as well.

For more than a decade, NIEER has surveyed states and reported on their preschool policies, focusing on eligibility, enrollment, standards relating to quality, and funding. But it’s the “benchmarks” against which we score state standards that garner all the attention.

Some believe meeting nearly all the benchmarks designates a state pre-K program as high quality. That is incorrect. The benchmarks were designed to indicate the minimum standards that states should have in place to support quality. The benchmarks were never intended to be the high bar some have come to interpret them to be.

Considered along with other policies, such as financial support, the old benchmarks primarily reflect a state’s commitment to providing the resources needed to provide a quality early education. States meeting all the benchmarks should be proud of their accomplishments. But simply meeting the benchmarks does not guarantee children are receiving a high-quality classroom experience.

Past benchmarks were designed to help states build programs, focusing on inputs and policies related to the structural aspects of public pre-K—elements needed for a high-quality program but not defining one. Much progress has been made along these lines and that is one reason behind the revisions.

In addition, research over the past decade has indicated how much more states must do with policy to support quality beyond making adequate resources available. More must be done to assure good teachers are providing engaging, intentional and individualized education for every child.

As our colleagues Bob Pianta, Jason Downer and Bridget Hamre have written, “The evidence suggests that it’s time to shift our attention to children’s and teachers’ everyday experiences in classrooms, and to put those experiences at the core of what we mean by quality in early education.”

Our updated benchmarks focus on policies that more directly support continuous improvement of quality within pre-K classrooms. As with the old benchmarks, they are a work in progress, and we expect to find we will need to adjust them further as new evidence becomes available and policies evolve. In addition, we will seek to introduce more information on actual performance of state programs that is comparable from state to state, in so far as that is possible.

This is not a game of “gotcha.” We know providing young children with the best opportunities to learn and develop requires a commitment to adequate resources and attention to program features that can be regulated, as well as other supports for practice. We hope the new benchmarks will act as a “GPS,” guiding policymakers along the route toward high-quality pre-K.

We invite you to follow NIEER on Twitter @PreschoolToday and Facebook at Preschool Today. Please share your social media handles so we can connect. 

NIEER Activities

Preschooler’s Executive Function: Importance, Contributors, Research Needs and Assessment Options

NIEER Assistant Research Professor Allison Friedman-Krauss co-authored a report published this week by Educational Testing Service reviewing research on the traits and skills that make up executive function, interdependent aspects critical for supporting young children’s developmental and academic outcomes.  
EF is not only important for successfully completing everyday tasks but also is a necessary skill for language, literacy and mathematics, the report states. “Our review suggests it is important for both policymakers and early education stakeholders to be mindful of the child and of environmental factors that play a role in the development of EF.”

CEELO Update

Looking Before They Leap: How ESSA Can Help Students Transition

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) is proud to partner with New America on this blog series highlighting early learning opportunities and challenges under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The leap from pre-K to kindergarten can be both exciting and stressful, as children face new classrooms, new classmates, new rules, and new teachers. Moving from the familiar to the unknown can also intimidate parents learning new routines and meeting new families. Even teachers may feel anxious about what to expect from an incoming class of students with different learning styles, abilities, and home lives. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act recognizes these challenges and encourages schools to address them.

NIEER Policy Briefs Archive

Equity and Excellence: African-American Children’s Access to Quality Preschool

This policy report, released in November 2013 by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), and White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans (WHIEEAA), discusses the lack of access to high-quality early childhood education experiences for African-American children and offers recommendations to expand opportunities.


Professionalizing ECE: Roles and Compensation

The latest Policy [M]atters video chat from the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership begins with a reflection on where higher education faculty fit within NAEYC‘s Power to the Profession initiative. Is a member of the ECE faculty a part of the profession? Or is she an allied professional? Discussion explores why it is important to create boundaries for the professional role of an Early Childhood Educator and consideration of compensation policy. Watch video.

Policy Matters is a quarterly video chat series between Teri Talan of the McCormick Center and a guest author in early childhood policy. The guest author for Episodes 5-8 is Stacie Goffin. Explore previous chats and topics here.

The Demand for Teacher Characteristics in the Market for Child Care: Evidence from a Field Experiment

A new IZA Institute of Labor Economics report explores child-care hiring practices in 14 cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, District of Columbia, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Stating that “many preschool-age children in the U.S. attend center-based child care programs that are of low quality,” the paper indicates center-based providers may not hire the most qualified applicants.

Using fictional resumes to gauge hiring practices, the research indicates having a bachelor’s degree, a top-notch grade point average, and a relatively high level of work experience actually reduces the chance that a job applicant will be called in for an interview. Fictional applicants with less experience and a C or solid B average (3.3 compared to 3.8) were more likely to be invited for a job interview.

Researchers also found evidence of racial bias in hiring: Applicants who had names commonly associated with African-Americans and Hispanics were less likely to be called for interviews.

Teacher Professional Development By Selected Teacher and School Characteristics: 2011–12

A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics provides a snapshot of teacher professional development among U.S. public school teachers. The report uses data collected through the 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) Public School Teacher Questionnaire, focusing on public school teachers’ responses to questions regarding the topics covered in their professional development activities; the amount of time spent in those activities in the last 12 months; the support they received for participation; and whether they engaged in less formal professional activities.

Among the findings:

  • The most prevalent topic of professional development among public school teachers was the content of the subject(s) they taught, with 85 percent of teachers participating;
  • The next most common topic of professional development among public school teachers was the use of computers for instruction (67 percent), followed by reading instruction (57 percent), student discipline and classroom management (43 percent), teaching students with disabilities (37 percent), and teaching limited-English-proficient (LEP) students or English language learners (ELLs) (27 percent);
  • Eighty-one percent of teachers participated in regularly scheduled collaboration with other teachers; 67 percent observed or were observed by other teachers for at least 10 minutes; and 45 percent conducted individual or collaborative research on a topic of professional interest; and
  • Scheduled time during the contract year was the most prevalent type of support that public school teachers received for professional development, provided to 79 percent of teachers.

2017 ECE Leadership Development Landscape and Compendium: A View of the Current Landscape, 3rd edition

The 2017 ECE Leadership Development Landscape and Compendium identifies early childhood education leadership development programs and provides an overview of what they signify for ECE as a field of practice. Four questions are answered:

  • How is the ECE field addressing its needs for leadership?
  • What programs are available to support leadership development and who is being served?
  • What can be learned from the field’s definitions for and approach to leadership development based on descriptions provided by participant programs?
  • How has the ECE field evolved over the last decade in its interests and purposes for leadership development?


The Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska

The Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska seeks a recognized leader in the field of early childhood and child development research and evaluation to serve as Director of Research and Evaluation. The Director of Research and Evaluation is responsible for leading the Institute’s efforts to build a world class research and evaluation function that contributes to the work of the Institute and  helps to shape the focus of work in the early childhood development field. Click here for more information.

NYC Bureau of Child Care 

The Bureau of Child Care has a job opening for an entry-level City Research Scientist interested in applying a scientific eye to the regulation of child care in NYC. Those interested in pursuing this opportunity should apply online at NYCJobs and email a resume and cover letter to Kelvin Chan, PhD, MTS, MPH; Director of Early Childhood Development.


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.


Re-Envisioning Early Childhood Teacher Preparation

Tuesday May 9
8:30 am-3 pm
Roosevelt House

Dr. Jacqueline Jones, the President of the Foundation for Child Development and the 2017 Elise C. Tepper Education Fellow, will lead a daylong discussion of the challenges and opportunities associated with building a strong early childhood teacher preparation program.

National experts from teacher preparation, early childhood policy, and government will engage with the audience. The goal is to build upon the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Eight: a Unifying Foundation, to open a discussion around the role of higher education in supporting a competent early childhood workforce. The event is free. RSVP here.

Early Education in the News

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

Subscribe to NIEER Weekly

Click here to subscribe or unsubscribe from our weekly newsletter.