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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 16, Issue 27

July 14, 2017

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: GAO Weighs In, Word Gaps and Webinars

Hot Topics

Making a Federal Case

A new Government Accountability Office report on early learning counted more than 40 federal programs providing services to young children, with nine focused explicitly on early education and child care. The review identified “some fragmentation, overlap and potential duplication,” noting “despite this overlap, there may be service gaps because these programs are not entitlements, and therefore do not serve all eligible children.”

For example, GAO reported in 2016 that an estimated 1.5 million children received Child Care Development Fund subsidies–out of an estimated 8.6 million children who were eligible in their state in an average month.

NIEER’s State(s) of Head Start report found similar gaps in the federal program created in 1965 to help children and families overcome the disadvantages of poverty.  Nationwide, Head Start programs currently serve less than 40 percent of the number of 3- and 4-year-olds in poverty and less than 5 percent of the number in poverty under age 3.

CCDF and Head Start are the biggest federal early learning programs, garnering more than 90 percent of the $15 billion spent on ECE by the US in fiscal year 2015. Federal early learning programs are spread among the departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Interior, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, the General Services Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Five of the nine programs with an explicit early learning or child care purpose focus on children age 5 and under, and four programs assist only low-income children. Despite such similarities, however, some programs serve specific groups, such as 4-year-olds or children with disabilities. Plus, the GAO praised agencies for improved coordination and interagency collaboration.

The report was released during a House Committee on Education and the Workforce subcommittee hearing chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), who called the federal system “a confusing maze for parents” and applauded states for “finding a better way and recognizing they are in a better position to help parents.”

“For those of us who want to see the federal government take a diminished role in deciding what is best for our children in terms of education, I think this is excellent news,” he added.

State governors this week also called for better coordination and collaboration in a letter to Congress encouraging “support for strengthening the state-federal partnership on early childhood education.” Seeing early childhood education as workforce development, the bipartisan National Governors Association shared recommendations including supporting early childhood through federal social safety net programs and placing state policy makers at the center of state-federal early childhood education.

“Every dollar of current federal investment in early childhood education and child care is critical to augment state efforts to construct and maintain this foundation,” the NGA stated. “Just as governors have leveraged the entirety of state government to improve the delivery of early childhood education and child care programs, Congress is uniquely positioned to refresh and rework the current patchwork of federal early education and child care programs to build on cutting-edge state programs – not operate separately from them.”

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

Latest in the blog series from the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) and New America on early learning opportunities and challenges under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

Early Childhood Special Education and ESSA: A Great Opportunity for All

Planning for the inclusion of young children with disabilities in new or expanded early learning programs offers local education agencies the additional benefit of supporting their efforts under IDEA. That is, local education agencies can assure that children with disabilities receive services in the least restrictive environment (LRE), delivered in regular early childhood classrooms with typically developing children to the maximum extent possible.

NIEER Activities 

Closing the Word Gap

NIEER Senior Co-Director W. Steven Barnett Ph.D. recently was a panelist on the Caucus New Jersey series “Grow Up Great” hosted by Steve Adubato.

Dr. Barnett joined other education experts discussing the “word gap” between low-income children exposed to 30 million fewer words than their higher-income peers before age 3. The panel addressed ways parents, care-givers and teachers can help increase a child’s vocabulary, which influences academic success and lifelong skills.

CEELO Update

Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes experts recently shared presentations at national conferences. Below please find descriptions and links to presentations recently added to the CEELO website.


Parent-Toddler Behavior, Language Differ When Reading Electronic and Print Picture Book

This study, published by Frontiers in Psychology, reports on differences in parent and child behavior and language when reading print versus electronic versions of the same books, and investigates links between behavior and vocabulary learning.

Parents of 102 toddlers aged 17–26 months were randomly assigned to read two commercially available electronic books or two print format books with identical content with their toddler. After reading, children were asked to identify an animal labeled in one of the books in both two-dimensional (pictures) and three-dimensional (replica objects) formats. Toddlers who were read the electronic books paid more attention, made themselves more available for reading, displayed more positive affect, participated in more page turns, and produced more content-related comments during reading than those who were read the print versions of the books.

Early Education of Dual Language Learners: An efficacy study of the Nuestros Ninos School Readiness professional development program

This Child Care and Research Connections study assessed a 2-year program that includes an integrative approach to teacher professional development (PD) and a research-based, systematic intervention component aimed to promote language, literacy, and social-emotional development, and mathematics learning in pre-kindergarten Spanish-English dual language learners (DLLs).

Results indicate the NNSR program had positive effects on the overall quality of early childhood classroom practices and on practices specifically focused on DLLs. Positive results were also found for children’s outcomes. DLLs in treatment classrooms showed greater gains in expressive vocabulary in English than DLLs in control classrooms, and, when assessed in Spanish, gains were higher in receptive vocabulary, alphabet knowledge, writing and early mathematics. Issues of implementation fidelity and implications for using both languages of DLL children in instruction and assessment are discussed.

Head Start Miami-Dade County Dataset

Research Connections this week released the dataset from The Head Start Miami-Dade County, 2014-2015 study, funded by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This dataset explores new, developmentally appropriate and reliable measures of motivation orientation among 350 low-income preschoolers served by the Head Start program. Data include direct assessments of school readiness outcomes such as children’s language and science abilities, along with a teacher rating scale of approaches to learning.

NC Pre-K Earns High Marks for its First 15 Years

North Carolina’s pre-kindergarten program has supported more than 350,000 children in multiple areas of learning and development, according to a new summary report from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The report says favorable outcomes from the program can last for years after children enter elementary school. These annual evaluations have included several studies of program services, classroom quality, and children’s outcomes during pre-K as well as longer-term into kindergarten and third grade.

Key Findings

  • The NC Pre-K (More at Four) Program has positive effects across key domains of learning – children’s language development and communication skills, cognitive development, and social and emotional development.
  • Poor children who attended the state pre-K program scored higher on third-grade reading EOGs and math EOGs than poor children who had not attended the program
  • Children had better language, literacy, and math skills following participation in the state pre-K program compared to children who had not participated in the program
  • Children who participated in NC Pre-K (More at Four) made greater than expected gains in language, literacy, math, general knowledge, and social skills during pre-K and continuing into kindergarten

Connecting the Steps

This brief from New America analyzes actions taken by four states to improve the kindergarten transition process, describing actions taken by West Virginia, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington and discussing the opportunities and challenges with their approaches.

While the planning of a stable, well-connected transition between early education and kindergarten falls largely within the purview of individual schools and districts, states can actively encourage intentional, local efforts to smooth transitions to kindergarten.


Montgomery AL Early Childhood Director

Montgomery is moving forward a city/countywide pre-K for all plan and is seeking an early learning director to spearhead this effort. The director will collaborate inside and outside of the MPS system. Outside collaboration will include, but not be limited to, maximizing partnerships with nonprofit and private child care centers, Head Start and the Alabama First Class Pre-K program and research-based home visiting programs at the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. The Early Childhood Director will also supervise the development, organization, implementation, coordination and evaluation of the early childhood and preschool instructional programs in the school system to ensure that all students will meet or exceed the state core curriculum content standards.

Applicants should complete the State of Alabama on-line application and attach it to the specific job number in order to be considered. Questions should be directed to the Office of Human Resources at (334) 223-6730.

Research Study Survey

Dr. Carlo Panlilio, at the Pennsylvania State University, and Christy Tirrell-Corbin, at the Center for Early Childhood Education and Intervention in Maryland, are developing a curriculum tentatively entitled, Trauma Sensitive Pedagogy (TSP). In order to ensure the TSP curriculum meets the needs of teachers/specialists/administrators, they are conducting a research study, which relies on educators and other school personnel, such as school psychologists/counselors/social workers, childcare providers, home visitors and administrators, to share their knowledge, skills and experiences relative to childhood trauma.

The survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete and participants will have the option to enter into a raffle for one of twenty $50 Amazon gift cards! To complete the survey, click here.


NCSL Early Care and Education Webinar Series

State Preschool Programs: Annual Yearbook Update

Thursday July 20, 2017
2 pm ET/ 11 am PT

NCSL’s Early Care and Education project covers a range of policy topics from child care, prekindergarten, infant and early childhood home visiting, to financing strategies and more. This webinar features NIEER Senior Co-Director W. Steven Barnett Ph.D. and Assistant Research Professor Allison Friedman-Krauss Ph.D., along with Sen. Brice Wiggins, (R-MS). Register here.

Early Education News Roundup

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

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