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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 16, Issue 19

May 12, 2017

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Educate Early & Often; All in the Family and Going Global

Hot Topics

Better Sooner than Later

New York City’s newly proposed 3-K for All program is an important step forward, serving the city’s 3-year-olds during an essential year, beginning in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty. Starting earlier makes sense as the strongest evidence typically cited in favor of public pre-K comes from studies that began at age 3 or even earlier including the Perry, Abecedarian, and Chicago Child Parent Center studies. Studies comparing starting at age 3 v. 4 have found a wide range of benefits:

NIEER’s study of the high-quality Abbott Preschool Program in New Jersey found that children who attended two years of preschool had higher gains in language arts and literacy, mathematics, and science through 4th and 5th grades than those attending just one year.

This week, a New York Times article raised questions about whether the program can succeed, quoting community-based preschool providers, state legislators and others rightly concerned with the practical challenges of funding, hiring 4,500 teachers and expanding enrollment. Providers worried that higher salaries offered by the city program would make it harder for them to hire and retain good teachers. State legislators said they wanted to see pre-K for all 4-year-olds statewide before NYC expands its program. No one argued it wouldn’t be good for New York City’s children.

With Pre-K for All, New York City has already confronted and addressed these difficult practical problems. They won’t get any easier, and the city has not promised to serve all 3-year-olds in the next year or two, but to expand gradually maintaining its commitment to quality. Many other developed countries have managed to serve all 3- and 4-year-olds. Some have developed strong supports for all children from birth to age 5 including paid parental leave, home visiting, and early care and education.

The key to success is public will to adequately fund quality education for all and a focus on using data to ensure that this funding produces that quality, something that so far the city has been admirably focused on accomplishing. Reversing course in the city would do nothing to help children elsewhere in New York state. Meanwhile, the city’s proposal to move forward with 3-K while providing additional funding for quality supports for programs serving children under 3 — and recognizing that these programs are part of the education system — provides some assurance that there will be careful attention to the broader consequences of expansion in the city.

New on Preschool Matters Today! Blog

All in the Family: Supporting Students through Family Engagement in ESSA

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 federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) strives to reduce academic achievement gaps for children. Research shows family engagement is essential to meeting this education goal. Families guide children on their learning adventures both in and out of classrooms, beginning at birth. Initial interactions with the formal learning system set the tone for subsequent years. ESSA recognizes this important role and provides opportunities to foster effective family engagement. However, it will be up to states and localities to adopt policies that enable educators to make the connections needed with families.

NIEER Activities

Does Preschool Education Do More Harm Than Good?

NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D. discussed what research tells us about preschool programs, policies and outcomes for children with members of 55 Plus in Princeton.

Much attention has been given to findings from a recent study in Tennessee that children score worse on standardized tests by grade 3 if they had attended public pre-K at age 4. As the research design is said to represent the gold standard and the preschool program to be of high quality, the results are at the very least troubling.

The Tennessee study follows a much publicized failure of Head Start to produce broad lasting gains in a national randomized trial and studies that find Quebec’s universal child care to have long-term negative impacts.

From this evidence should one conclude that public preschool education is at best a waste of money and at worst harming our children? Does a more comprehensive review of research lead to the same conclusion? What, if anything, might be done to assure that public programs produce greater benefits than costs, particularly in New Jersey where more than a half billion dollars annually is spent on preschool education in the state’s lowest income communities? Download presentation here.

CEELO Update

Helping Young Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: Policies and Strategies for Early Care and Education

CEELO this week shared a new report from the National Center on Children in Poverty and Child Trends that examines the effects of trauma on young children and presents strategies for professionals who work with these children and recommendations for policymakers who want to promote trauma-informed care for these vulnerable children.

“Almost half of children in the United States—approximately 35 million—have experienced one or more types of trauma, and young children are at especially high risk compared to older children,” the report states. “…Despite trauma being widespread and detrimental to the well-being of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, few early care and education (ECE) programs and state systems are prepared to offer care that is trauma-informed—with all adults able to recognize and respond to the impact of trauma on young children, and to infuse trauma awareness, knowledge, and skills into program culture, practices, and policies.”


Child Care Experiences Among Dual Language Learners in the United States: Analyses of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth Cohort

A recent study examines use of nonparental child care, the quality of such care, and the languages spoken in care for DLLs during infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool, in hopes that a deeper understanding of DLL children’s child care experiences will help the design of ECE policies that promote improved outcomes for this growing group of DLL children.

Results suggest researchers and practitioners need to revisit the notion that a large and sometimes vaguely defined group, such as “Hispanics,” “Latinos,” “immigrants,” or “DLLs,” is reticent to send its children to center-based care and instead prefers family-based and informal child care arrangements. Findings show that this is not always the case.

“To fully understand the child care experiences of DLLs, closer examination of the quality of care and the linguistic and cultural features of different types of care is needed,” the report concludes. “Knowledge about whether the caregiver speaks a DLL child’s first language is not enough. Studies are needed that describe the actual languages used and how they are used by teachers and DLL children in various kinds of child care settings and how these settings and language patterns relate to developmental outcomes for DLLs.”

Childcare, Early Education and Social Inequaity: An International Perspective

This newly published volume is the first large-scale and integrated sociological analysis of the roots of educational inequality well before children start school. The collection compiles the work of 13 cross-national and multi-disciplinary studies on the early roots of inequality, offering some promising reports on policies and practices shown to ameliorate it. Included is a chapter by NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D. and Ellen Frede, Ph.D, a developmental psychologist who has also been an education policymaker and practitioner.

In the chapter “Long-term effects of a system of high-quality universal preschool education in the United States,” Drs. Barnett and Frede report on how New Jersey’s systemic public pre-K reforms raised the quality of early education through professional upgrading of staff, salary incentives, implementation of challenging curriculum and an innovative ‘continuous improvement system.’ They link the increased quality to increased achievement and other educational gains for children in the state’s most economically disadvantaged communities.

“This chapter is exemplary in that it describes the political will and leadership necessary for a whole system change that can alter traditional developmental trajectories,” the report introduction states. The chapter argues that “rigorous standards and policies alone (will) not produce the results we observe. In other words, reforms ‘on paper only’ will not succeed.”

Children, Youth and Developmental Science in the 2015–2030 Global Sustainable Development Goals

This policy report published by the Society for Research in Child Development focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlining 17 global goals considered central to sustainable development in all countries. The goals, a framework ratified by all 193 U.N. member countries, encourage action to address climate change and promote sustainable development.

This framework recognizes the mutual dependence of all countries and influences of economic, social, and health conditions on human well-being. Several of the goals focus on children and youth, and the well-being and healthy development of children and youth. This Social Policy Report outlines the role of developmental science in this new agenda.

Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records

A recently published National Bureau of Economic Research working paper finds both school disciplinary infractions and juvenile incarceration rises with preschool blood lead levels.

Using a unique dataset linking preschool blood lead levels (BLLs), birth, school, and detention data for 120,000 children born 1990-2004 in Rhode Island, authors examine the impact of lead on behavior, finding a one-unit increase in lead increased the probability of suspension from school by 6.4-9.3 percent and the probability of detention by 27-74 percent, though the latter applies only to boys.

“In our data, children who have been suspended from school are ten times more likely to be detained or incarcerated as adolescents or young adults,” the report states. “…By examining school disciplinary problems as well as juvenile incarceration we provide a more nuanced picture of the effect of lead on antisocial behavior.”

Evaluation of the Reggio Approach to Early Education

A separate working paper from NBER focused on evaluating the Reggio Approach using non-experimental data on individuals from the cities of Reggio Emilia, Parma and Padova at ages 50, 40, 30, 18, and 6, as of 2012.

“Relative to not receiving formal care, the Reggio Approach significantly boosts outcomes related to employment, socio-emotional skills, high school graduation, election participation, and obesity,” the paper states. “Comparisons with individuals exposed to alternative forms of childcare do not yield strong patterns of positive and significant effects… This suggests that differences between the Reggio Approach and other alternatives are not sufficiently large to result in significant differences in outcomes.”


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.


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.


2017 Roundtable: Leading for Change in Early Childhood Education

June 7-9, 2017
San Francisco, CA

This meeting, collaboratively planned by CEELO and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS-SDE), is designed to build the capacity of state agency leaders and early childhood specialists to provide informed leadership about research-based practices to support an effective, high performing statewide systems for children birth through third grade. As a result of this meeting, state early childhood education administrators and others will increase:

  • Effectiveness in engaging diverse partners and perspectives to drive system change
  • Utilization of results-focused leadership  and planning to achieve policy goals
  • Integration of implementation science to support program expansion and policy goals
  • Knowledge of the barriers, tools and strategies to address racial, economic and cultural diversity and equity

2017 Roundtable Speakers & Presenters

Early Education News Roundup

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

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