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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 16, Issue 43

November 3, 2017

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Long-term Gains, Quality for Whom? and NIEER Near You

Hot Topics

Long-Term Gains

Based on research demonstrating both academic and social gains for children who attend high-quality preschool, a new analysis by the Center for American Progress argues providing universal preschool for all 4-year-olds in the US would result in economic gains worth billions.

The analysis quantified long-term outcomes in states providing high-quality preschool to then estimate a net benefit of $83.3 billion for each one-year cohort of 4-year-olds attending high-quality preschool.

Most benefits result from increased high school graduation rates and higher wage earnings, while less than 10 percent is attributed to parents’ increased wages earned because of the child care provided by preschools and reduced reliance on public assistance. See methodology.

Failing to provide universal high-quality pre-K, therefore, is costing taxpayers dearly. The report states  “every year that policymakers delay a universal preschool investment, the United States loses billions of dollars that come from preschool’s economic benefits—such as less frequent grade retention and a reduced need for special education.”

The estimate assumes 75 percent of all 4-year-old children would enroll—far exceeding current enrollment in most states.

More states than ever—43 plus the District of Columbia and this year, Guam—provide publicly funded preschool, according to The State of Preschool 2016 report, yet just seven states plus the District of Columbia enrolled more than 50 percent of 4-year-olds in 2015-16, with an average national enrollment of 32 percent. Washington DC ranks first for enrollment of 4-year-olds at 81 percent, with Minnesota ranking last among states with programs at 1.2 percent—while seven have no state-funded preschool programs.

The estimate also assumes states would increase their investments in early education to raise its quality. Today, per-child state spending averages just $4,976, according to The State of Preschool 2016 report.

Research shows that only high-quality early learning can produce improvements in outcomes for children of the magnitude and persistence underlying the projected gains. Large economic benefits would only accrue if preschool programs were universally high quality. Today, quality among state-funded programs varies widely.

Oklahoma, for example, enrolls about 74 percent of 4-year-olds, has tended to spend amounts per child for pre-K comparable to that spent for K-12, and evaluations have produced evidence of some long-term gains. Florida, enrolls 76 percent of 4-year-olds—but meets few quality standards, spends less than $2500 per child, and evaluations find that it does not produce the kinds of persistent gains that generate a solid economic return.

Research also raises questions about how much can be expected from a single year of high-quality preschool, as benefits likely depend on what happens earlier (e.g., two years of high quality preschool are better than one, and investments in child development begin prenatally) and later (K-12 must build on earlier gains, particularly for disadvantaged children).

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

What We’re Reading

Quality for Whom? Supporting Diverse Children and Workers in Early Childhood Quality Rating and Improvement Systems

NIEER Assistant Research Professor Alexandra Figueras-Daniel discusses a new report on how QRIS often overlook language and culture aspects of classroom quality.

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) recently issued a report detailing the extent to which state quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) are currently helping and/or hindering supports for dual language learners among states. The report summary highlights progressive ways states are including standards for quality but notes some rating systems do not recognize practices that are linguistically and culturally responsive, and award top notch ratings without meeting standards relative to language or culture. In addition, the report clearly outlines issues with implementation of QRIS and lessons learned from providers struggling to meet requirements because system designs do not acknowledge challenges related to language and culture, which all merit attention.

MPI aggregates the indicators in rating systems of 11 states which include assessment of features of diversity along with the evidence used to determine if the indicators are eligible for credit. While these are a start, they reveal that evidence is largely based on self-report, or on measures not designed to expressly measure these constructs. This is particularly important given results of NIEER’s State of Preschool 2016 report finding that many states are not systematically including policies to support DLLs by way of teacher requirements, standards, assessment, and the collection of data proving that there are definite pathways to more responsive and equitable systems.

Another concern highlighted by the report is the issue of who evaluators are and what assessment tools are used to measure quality relative to DLL supports in the classroom. This is clearly problematic given that NIEER found only one state currently requires program administrators to have specialized knowledge skills about DLLs.

The MPI report makes five key recommendations to help states implement QRIS that better reflect the needs of children and programs. States should look to these and update policies to make QRIS linguistically and culturally responsive for their young children, as well as providers working tirelessly to care for and educate them.

NIEER Activities

Watch for NIEER at the NAEYC Annual Conference Nov. 15-18 as Associate Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers, Ph.D. and Research Project Coordinator Kaitlin Northey, along with Professor Sharon Ryan of Bank Street College of Education and Vincent Costanza, Teaching Strategies, LLC, share their presentation titled “Academic Rigor and DAP: Implementing high-quality teaching practices in K-3.”

NIEER also will present “Engaging in pedagogy or doing it ‘right’: A quest to make 1-3 more DAP” by Kaitlin Northey, Dr. Shannon Riley-Ayers, and Dr. Sharon Ryan during the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE) conference Nov. 15. The presentation describes lessons learned in New Jersey and strives to help teachers overcome their fear of “not doing it right” and “getting into trouble” to carry out best teaching practices.


Supporting Parents: How Six Decades of Parenting Research Can Inform Policy and Best Practice

This new report from the Society for Research in Child Development highlights the lack of US programs designed to support families at risk and promote parenting competence, compared to other industrialized nations. This paper outlines what 60 years of research indicates about the elements of competent parenting and recommends policies to support parents at risk.

The Effects of Universal Preschool on Grade Retention

Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program (VPK), which began in 2005, has been a national leader with respect to preschool access. Results indicate that VPK did not lead to changes in the likelihood children complete the third grade without ever being retained. The program led to a drop in the likelihood children were retained during the kindergarten year, but this drop was counteracted by increases in retention in subsequent school years.

Linguistic environment of preschool classrooms: What dimensions support children’s language growth?

The Early Childhood Research study explored how best to represent the dimensionality of the preschool classroom’s linguistic environment and to determine which dimensions are most strongly associated with children’s language development. Participants were teachers in 49 preschool classrooms and a random sample of children from each classroom. Children’s grammar and vocabulary skills were measured and the classroom linguistic environment was assessed with measures representing teachers’ linguistic responsivity, data-providing features of teachers’ talk, and systems-level general quality. Results showed that only one of the three dimensions, teachers’ communication-facilitating behaviors, predicted growth in children’s vocabulary from preschool to kindergarten.

Early Childhood Program Participation, Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016

This National Center for Education Statistics report presents data on the early care and education arrangements and selected family activities of children in the US from birth through the age of 5 who were not yet enrolled in kindergarten by 2016, along with data on parents’ ratings of factors that affected their choice of child care arrangements and participation in various learning activities with their children. Results are reported by child, parent, and family characteristics based on data from the Early Childhood Program Participation (ECPP) Survey, administered as part of the 2016 National Household Education Surveys Program.

The Relationship of Relative Child Care and Parenting Behaviors in Fragile Families

Data from 3475 families in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study were used to examine how relative child care is related to parenting behaviors and how relationships might vary by racial/ethnic group and immigrant background. Relative child care appeared to have positive effects for Black and immigrant mothers, negative effects for White mothers, and mixed effects for Hispanic mothers.

A Bipartisan Case for Early Childhood Development

A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Early Childhood Initiative, chaired by former Democratic Chair of the House Education Committee Rep. George Miller and former Republican Senator Rick Santorum, urged Congress to take action on specific policy proposals to support young children and families. Recommendations include increasing the value of, and access to, the federal Child Care Tax Credit, reauthorizing the federally funded home-visiting program which expired in September, and encouraging states to enhance training and professional development for child care workers to improve child outcomes.

Persistent Gaps: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2017

Under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), states have flexibility to set policies within federal parameters. This National Women’s Law Center report examines states’ policies in five key areas—income eligibility limits to qualify for child care assistance, waiting lists for child care assistance, co-payments required of parents receiving child care assistance, payment rates for child care providers serving families receiving child care assistance, and eligibility for child care assistance for parents searching for a job.

Education inequalities at the school starting gate

Using data from two academic cohorts, this Economic Policy Institute report examines the relationship between children’s socioeconomic status (SES) and their cognitive and noncognitive skills when starting school, finding large and persistent performance gaps between children in the lowest and highest socioeconomic-status (SES) quintiles.

This Economic Policy Institute report urges greater investments in pre-K programs and continued comprehensive support for children through their academic years, including meaningful engagement of parents and communities to mitigate against the negative influence of socio-economic disadvantage on education success.


Early Edge Communications, Policy Roles

Early Edge has led early childhood advocacy efforts in California since 2003. Moving forward it will use its advocacy leadership and capacity to drive an agenda focused on helping California attract, develop, and retain effective early childhood educators as the linchpin of quality. Early Edge is seeking directors for communications, policy and advocacy, and state policy.

If interested, please email a cover letter and resume to


Intersections Between Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health and Autism: Identification and Intervention

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET

This webinar will focus on the intersection between infant and early childhood mental health and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in young children, with a focus on clinical practice. The presentation will explore a model for interdisciplinary assessment and diagnosis of ASD in young children within an infant mental health framework. Register

Early Education News Roundup 

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

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