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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 16, Issue 23

June 9, 2017

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Leading from the Middle, Relationships Matter and #EarlyEdChat

Hot Topics

Equity in the Context of Universal Services and a Reminder that First Grade Is Not Too Late

The Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development presents important findings demonstrating that even first grade is not too late in early childhood to have dramatic impacts and reduce disparities in education, social and economic success yielding a high rate of return–$14 to $1–on ECE investment.

Equity in Early Childhood Education: What Research Says relies on population-level data showing that between 25 percent to 30 percent of Canadian children do not enter school meeting all of the developmental benchmarks they need to thrive both now and into the future. Such developmental vulnerability at school entry is strongly associated with a series of parent and family risk factors often linked to social disadvantage.

Research in Montreal provides an example of an effective program delivered within a framework where a universal basket of services for all families and children is available.  This randomized trial with long-term follow-up found substantial effects of intensive non-cognitive skills training in first and second grade for children at high-risk much like the effects of strong preschool programs–increased high school graduation rates, decreased crime, and better economic outcomes with a very high rate of economic return to society.

This overview by Isabelle Vinet presents these and other results from the Montreal Longitudinal Study and Intervention, expanding our understanding of how to improve long-term outcomes for the most vulnerable children.

Leading for Equity

While progress has been made in the US, policy makers seeking to increase equity of access to early educational opportunity still face daunting challenges.

Over the past decade, substantial sums have been spent to increase enrollment in state preschool programs.  However, this does not appear to have increased enrollment in preschool programs overall.  This suggests enrollment has largely been shifted from private programs and Head Start programs to state-funded programs (which may still be private).

That in turn raises several questions, such as why haven’t we made more headway in enrolling children, particularly those in low-income families? And if we are shifting enrollment, has this increased the quality of the programs children attend?

This is a key question because research does indicate that only high-quality programs can significantly reduce inequalities in skills at kindergarten entry that underlie the achievement gap for Black and Hispanic children. To provide leadership toward more equal early educational opportunity, states will need better data on who gets what in the years before kindergarten entry.

Unfortunately, in many states it is not possible to obtain data on the quality of classrooms or on enrollment by ethnicity and home language. Speaking to state early childhood leaders and advocates during the 2017 Roundtable, NIEER Director Steve Barnett, Ph.D. identified data needs to support leading for equity along, with steps to meet those needs. View Dr. Barnett’s presentation.

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

New on Preschool Matters Today! Blog

Leading from the Middle

Recently, an associate commissioner of education reached out to CEELO for help implementing the state’s early childhood strategic plan. She was already coping with increased responsibilities, fewer staff to do the job, reduced state and federal funding for early childhood, and changes in policy. Despite years of working in the field and steady advancement in leadership opportunities, she now faced the unique challenge of “leading from the middle”– complying and adjusting to new federal policies while also implementing legislative directives and coping with state budget constraints.

State early childhood leaders today must navigate all the systems–health, education, child care–that influence children’s lives from birth through early elementary school, often with even fewer resources than K-12 programs have.

NIEER Activities

NAEYC 2017 Professional Learning Institute

NIEER Associate Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers and Assistant Research Professor Alexandra Figueras-Daniel will present a PLI featured session, “Bridging the gap in the primary grades: Linking academically rigorous and developmentally appropriate instructional practices,” at 8 a.m. Monday, June 12 in Room Golden Gate A.

The session will explore the state of K–3 quality from a large evaluation, as well as how to (a) define the characteristics of high-quality primary classrooms that are both academically rigorous and developmentally appropriate and (b) plan actions to bridge the gap between current practices and high-quality implementation of teaching and learning practices. Dr. Sharon Ryan, Bank Street College of Education, and Dr. Vincent Costanza, New Jersey Department of Education, will also participate.

NIEER Senior Co-Director Ellen Frede, Ph.D

Ellen Frede, Ph.D. has joined NIEER as senior co-director for the development and management of research, assessments of practice linked to  professional development and technical assistance related to systems design and large-scale implementation of early learning initiatives with a special focus on better serving dual language learners.

Dr. Frede, who recently served as Deputy Director for Early Learning at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, brings early education experience and expertise ranging from Head Start classrooms to national policy. This new role will focus on enhancing NIEER’s work informing early childhood public policy through research, evaluation and education.

Dr. Frede has been influential in early education policy in New Jersey and nationally. She served as assistant to the commissioner in the New Jersey Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, as well as senior vice president for early learning, research and training at Acelero Learning Inc., and as an advisor to state and city governments and to NGOs in the US and globally.

Dr. Frede, a former professor in The College of New Jersey Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, also has conducted research at the Rutgers University Eagleton Institute’s Center for Policy Research in Education and the Temple University Center for Research in Human Development and Education. She previously served as NIEER co-director from 2005-2011.

CEELO Update

Relationships Matter: How States Can Include Teacher-Child Interactions in ECE and ESSA Plans

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).

Relationships and interactions between teachers and students make a big difference in the classroom. Teacher-child interactions form the cornerstone of children’s academic and social emotional development, especially in early learning classrooms. As states look for ways to measure and improve educational quality beyond test scores, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act provides an opportunity to consider data on teacher-child interactions. Washington, DC, and Louisiana provide two examples of states exploring this promising avenue, with some valuable lessons for their peers who might be considering teacher-child interaction measures, or other non-traditional quality measures that include or emphasize the early years. 

So, what should other states take away from DC and Louisiana?


Preparing for the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program

CEELO recently hosted the webinar Preparing for the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy ProgramSpeakers discussed opportunities for states and districts to implement an aligned and evidence-based approach to literacy curriculum, instruction and assessment from birth through third grade, and beyond. We are pleased to announce that the slides, recording, and selected resources are now available.

2017 Early Childhood Education Leadership Development Compendium

This resource identifies the ECE field’s leadership development programs and provides an overview of their significance to ECE as a field of practice. Prepared and published by the Goffin Strategy Group, this third edition of the Compendium addresses how the ECE field is responding to its changing context as viewed through the lens of its attention to leadership development. Four questions are answered: (1) How is the ECE field addressing its needs for leadership? (2) What programs are available to support leadership development and who is being served? (3) What can be learned from the field’s definition(s) for and approaches to leadership development based on descriptions provided by participant programs? (4) How has the ECE field evolved over the last decade in its interests and purposes for leadership development. Click here to explore this work.

Five Things We Can Learn from Pre-K in Other Countries

A growing share of children in the United States participate in formal pre-kindergarten programs before they enroll in kindergarten. The evidence base regarding the most effective approach to pre-K is mixed, with some approaches showing greater benefits than others, as summarized in a 2016 report from the American Enterprise Institute. Unfortunately, despite this public and academic support, more than one in three children in the U.S. still enter kindergarten without having attended any formal preschool program. This proportion is considerably higher than in most other high-income countries in the world.

To examine how best to increase the number of children who enroll in preschool, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked us to look outside of the U.S. at other high-income countries that have much higher rates of preschool participation. Their research, an inventory of official documents from 17 countries, followed by interviews with a select sample of European policymakers and experts, points to five distinguishing policy features that appear to matter: Preschool as a legal right, strong public financial support, connecting early, community ties, and universality.


National Governors Association

The NGA Center for Best Practices seeks an experienced professional to join the Education Division as a program director who will focus on state level policy issues related to early care and education (birth through age 8). Click here for details.

The program director will focus on state policies and issues around improving early care and education; innovative delivery and funding models for early childhood programs; data and systems to track and improve student outcomes, effectiveness and efficiency; system building across education and workforce related programs to help improve school readiness for young children. The program director will supervise a team of up to five subject matter experts and work with the Division Director and other program directors to provide leadership for the division.

The division is focused on helping governors develop and enact effective education policy and support its implementation. To do this, the education division provides information, research, policy analysis and technical assistance to governors and their staff in the areas of early childhood and K-12. The division also helps governors bridge the system divides among the early childhood, K-12 and workforce training systems.


Thursday June 15
2 pm ET

Join the conversation as @MomsRising hosts a Twitter Chat with NIEER on The State of Preschool 2016.

Early Education News Roundup

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

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