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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 16, Issue 21

May 26, 2017

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: 2016 Preschool Yearbook; Tackling absenteeism, California TK

Hot Topics

State of Preschool 2016–Change is in the Air

NIEER this week released The State of Preschool 2016, showing state-funded preschool program enrollment reached an all-time high, serving nearly 1.5 million children; state funding for preschool rose 8 percent to about $7.4 billion, and state funding per child exceeded pre-recession levels for the first time. But our evaluation also reveals how much more states must do to provide high quality preschool.

The Yearbook tells a story of growing inequality in access to high-quality preschool as some states invested in providing high-quality preschool for all children and others did little, or nothing. In 18 states, we found federal Preschool Development Grants (PDGs) were used to expand enrollment and enhance programs. PDGs funded nearly half the increase in enrollment of 4-year-olds.

The PDG program was designed to accomplish this goal, but the new administration’s budget would eliminate the $249 million program. Rather than cutting PDG, we argue for doubling funding for some form of competitive grants to states that would allow the federal government to incentivize high-quality pre-K in the majority of states, while still the size of a dust mote in the federal budget.

In addition, NIEER’s report recommends the federal government support a national pre-K quality audit of public and private preschool programs. Parents and taxpayers deserve to know to the extent to which pre-K programs in their state provide a good early education and how this varies by auspice. The last nationwide study of pre-K quality in 2005 found that most classrooms, private and public, were not good. Yet, high quality is needed in order to provide young children the strong start in school and life that can make a lasting difference.

For the first time, NIEER this year introduced major revisions to the quality standards benchmarks focusing on policies that more directly support continuous improvement of classroom quality. These new benchmarks are providing the GPS to guide policymakers toward sound investments in our children’s futures.

The State of Preschool Yearbook provides a guide for states and valuable information for parents and policymakers, but only an impartial assessment of children’s experiences in the classroom can tell whether we are headed in the right direction.

New on Preschool Matters Today! Blog

The State of Preschool 2016: Raising the Bar on Quality

Since NIEER introduced the Yearbook in 2003, research has continued to inform practice regarding the characteristics of programs and classrooms necessary to provide children with the high quality early learning opportunities shown to make a positive difference in their lives. The most recent research has identified supports to teachers for improving classroom experiences as key. These findings–together with progress among many states in meeting the minimum standards we have applied in the past–prompted NIEER this year to introduce updated quality standards benchmarks to assess state policies supporting public preschool programs.

Exactly how are the benchmarks changing?

NIEER Activities

From Left: KICCE researcher Eunyoung Kim, KICCE President Namhee Woo, NIEER Director Steve Barnett, KICCE researcher Jiyeon Yoon and Kwanghee Jung, NIEER Associate Director for Data Management and Statistics

Korean Institute of Child Care and Education

NIEER this week hosted Korean Institute of Child Care and Education President Namhee Woo and researchers Eunyoung Kim and Jiyeon Yoon. KICCE plans to partner with NIEER on research about young children’s educational activities outside their primary center-based arrangements.  Data will be collected in the US, Japan, Finland, Taiwan, and Korea for children ages 2 to 5. The KICCE team also visited New York City, where they observed preschool classrooms and talked with officials about the city’s PreK for All program.

EarlyEdU Alliance

NIEER Senior Research Fellow Jim Squires, who also is a senior fellow at the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes, recently presented a webinar to the EarlyEdU Alliance describing CEELO’s role and services in supporting the professional early childhood workforce. EarlyEdU Alliance is a 35-member consortium of institutions for higher education and 16 state-based teams supporting quality teaching in Head Start and early childhood programs. The webinar can be found here.

CEELO Update

Using ESSA to Tackle Chronic Absenteeism from Pre-K to K-12

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). 

As states work to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), one of the most positive developments is the frequency with which they are adopting chronic absence as the indicator of school quality or student success. For those not immersed in ESSA details, the requirement to measure school quality is one of the ways ESSA improves on the No Child Left Behind Act. Chronic Absence: Our Top Pick for the ESSA School Quality Indicator describes how chronic absence is an excellent fit with these requirements.

From our perspective, the inclusion of chronic absence also provides a golden opportunity to create strong, appropriate, and effective links between pre-K and K-12 education.  By adopting chronic absence data as a key diagnostic measure, pre-K teachers can enhance their efforts to ready young children for kindergarten.

Every Student Succeeds Act and Opportunities to Prioritize Early Learning Policy: State Scan

CEELO this week also shared an updated scan including published final state plans and state implementation guidance. This document also includes state ESSA pages, deadline for the state’s final plan, and links to the final or draft plans. For this and other relevant resources on ESSA, visit the ESSA page on the CEELO website. 


The State of Preschool 2016

NIEER this week published The 2016 State of Preschool Yearbook which finds FY 2015 was a turning point, representing a recovery from the Great Recession with state pre-K funding, enrollment, and quality standards all improving. Yet, as more states have moved forward to offer high quality pre-K to all, children in other states that continue to do little or nothing are left even further behind.  Looking back over 15 years, progress has been great (doubling enrollment), but uneven, creating growing inequality. As a result early educational opportunity varies dramatically across the nation by zip code. Download the Full Report or Executive Summary.

Promoting Social and Emotional Learning in Preschool

A new research brief, published this week by the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State University, explains the impacts of effective preschool social-emotional learning (SEL) programs and practices on a child’s development and future success.

Kindergarten teachers know how important it is for children to enter school with strong social emotional skills. Three quarters say that a child’s ability to pay attention is crucial for success in kindergarten. Eighty-seven percent say children need to be able to take turns and share, and 91 percent say they need to be able to follow directions.

These are all social emotional skills, and children who have more well-developed skills by the time they start kindergarten are more likely to succeed at school. This brief is the fourth in a series of research briefs exploring a range of topics related to social emotional development. View the full series.

Health Insurance Coverage Improves Child Well-Being

This new research brief from Child Trends describes benefits of insuring children–a topic made even more salient by recent federal budget discussions. Children’s health directly affects their ability to learn, the brief states; and children who have high-quality learning experiences are more likely to enjoy good health as they grow up.

The brief explores associations between health insurance coverage and academic outcomes. For example, one study found that children born in states that recently expanded Medicaid and CHIP had better reading scores. The researchers linked increases in eligibility with better health status at birth, which in turn was linked with improved academic outcomes. Another study looked at a link between expansion in health insurance for low-income children and increased rates of high school and college completion, possibly by contributing to better health in their teen years.

Transitional Kindergarten in California: The Impact of Transitional Kindergarten on English Language Learners

A recently published brief by the American Institutes for Research explores how California’s TK program addresses needs of English learners. (The TK program was included this year for the first time in the State of Preschool Yearbook).

In California, TK was created to help support the state’s young 5-year-olds by providing an additional year of early education prior to kindergarten. Research finds that TK has an impact on EL students’ mathematics skills, language and literacy skills, and English proficiency. EL students who attend TK enjoy a particularly strong advantage over their non-TK EL peers on English proficiency as measured by the CELDT.


LIU Brooklyn/School of Education

LIU Brooklyn/School of Education has a tenure-track faculty position vacancy for an Early Childhood Special Education/Inclusive Early Childhood Education Assistant/Associate Professor. 
The successful candidate will teach undergraduate and graduate courses in early childhood education with a focus on teacher education for young children with disabilities. The new assistant/associate professor will share responsibility for a newly developed undergraduate program, Inclusive Early Childhood Education, including advising students and collaborating with schools and community-based organizations. Candidates must have an earned doctoral degree in early childhood special education or a related field. Starting date is September 1, 2017.  
For consideration, please forward your letter of interest, curriculum vitae, and the names and contact information of three references to or apply online at    

Early Education News Roundup

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

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