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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 17, Issue 1

January 5, 2018

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Universal v Targeted, Get Physical, Tulsa PreK

Hot Topics


A study first noted here in October 2017 recently garnered renewed attention for challenging opinions about early education.

Does Universal Preschool Hit the Target? Program Access and Preschool Impacts by Elizabeth U. Cascio, published as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, explores how particular program attributes might influence the achievement gains of disadvantaged preschoolers, focusing on access—whether disadvantage is a criterion for preschool admission.

Findings demonstrate “that universal state-funded prekindergarten programs generate substantial positive effects on the reading scores of low-income 4-year-olds; state pre-K programs targeted toward disadvantaged children do not.”

The notion that preK programs targeted at low-income families “don’t work nearly as well” as universal pre-school programs surprised economist Diane Schanzenbach, of Northwestern University, who specializes in poverty and public policy research. She identified the preschool study as one of “the most important or intriguing” of 2017 for Quartz.

“I had been a proponent of targeted programs, because so many kids who go to universal programs would have gone [to a paid program] anyway, and so offering them a slot in a universal program drives up the public costs of the program, but doesn’t change whether the child gets preschool,” Schanzenbach wrote. “Cascio’s paper shows that the benefits in terms of student outcomes are all coming only from the states with universal programs, not the targeted ones….

“I think this means we have to support universal pre-k programs, and the large price tags that go along with them.”

The paper acknowledges a consensus that the US invests too little in preschool education yet notes “considerably less” is known about how to make dollars spent more beneficial. Being open to all, universal programs can reach low-income children who might not quality for targeted programs and may be of higher quality due to parental pressure, the study states.

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NIEER Activities


NIEER is co-hosting a public conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of New Jersey’s Abbott preschool program on March 14, 2018 at ETS in Princeton, NJ. Research by the Rutgers center that later became NIEER was instrumental to the state Supreme Court case resulting in the Abbott preschool program and subsequent research has examined its effects.  
During the conference, panelists and participants will examine the challenging road to program creation and implementation, the best practices at the core of the program, and ways to build on the Abbott program’s remarkable success by expanding access to at-risk children across New Jersey and in other states. 
NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director Steven BarnettPh.D. will participate on the panel exploring the most effective components of the Abbott program and NIEER Senior Co-Director Ellen Frede, Ph.D. will be featured on a panel examining the litigation, advocacy and policymaking establishing and implementing the Abbott preschool program.  
Other hosts include the Education Law CenterEducational Testing Service and Advocates for Children of New Jersey

CEELO Update

CEELO Co-Director Lori Connors-Tadros has been helping the Virginia Department of Education and Department of Social Services develop guidelines for preventing suspension and expulsion of young children and supporting children with challenging behaviors in early childhood settings.

In addition to compiling a white paper summarizing the research on the prevalence, impact, and prevention of suspension and expulsion in early childhood programs, she facilitated a work group including a diverse array of stakeholders that produced a set of guidelines pending review by the state board of education. A teacher in the work group called the guidelines “very helpful,” adding “the document gave me some ideas to implement in my kindergarten classroom.”


Systemic Review of the Relationships between Physical Activity and Health Indicators in the Early Years 

The Journal of BMC Public Health recently released a systematic review of the literature examining the relationships between physical activity and health indicators in the early years (0-4 years) including 96 studies from 36 countries.  

Key findings suggest physical activity interventions were associated with improved motor and cognitive development, and psychosocial and cardiometabolic health in more than 60 percent of the studies. Authors conclude that specific types of physical activity, total physical activity, and physical activity of at least moderate- to vigorous-intensity is positively associated with multiple health indicators consistently across studies. The majority of evidence involved preschool-aged children.

The Effects of Tulsa’s Pre-K Program on Middle School Student Performance

The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management recently published a paper examining the effects of a high-quality universal preschool program on the later achievement of students based on data from Tulsa Public Schools, three neighboring school districts, and the state of Oklahoma. Researchers found positive effects on math achievement test scores, enrollment in honors courses, and grade retention for students as a whole.   

Shared Book Reading and Preschool Children’s Academic Achievement: Evidence from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort

A recent research paper published in Infant and Child Development examines the relationships among the quality and quantity of parent-child shared book reading engagements and children’s reading and mathematics outcomes in preschool. The study is based upon data from 700 children living in the United States from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth cohort. 

Researchers suggest that high-quality book reading experiences may positively impact academic achievement for children in a number of domains, but results can vary based on a number of contextual factors.

State Variations in Infant Feeding Regulations for Child Care

This American Academy of Pediatrics paper reviews infant feeding regulations for all US states for child care centers and family child care homes, comparing regulations with 10 national standards and assessing the number of new regulations consistent with the standards since a 2008 review.   

After comparing results from 2008 and 2016, researchers observed significant improvements in 7 of the 10 standards for centers and 4 of the 10 standards for child care homes. Researchers suggest a growing interest in this area due to the number of newly enacted regulations and that such regulations may improve child health outcomes. 

2016 Preschool Development Grant Performance and Progress Update Reports

The US Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning recently announced that states increased access to high-quality preschool programs to more than 34,000 four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families through the Preschool Development Grants (PDG) program, More data is available through the recently released 2016 PDG Progress Update, summarizing the program’s 2016 Annual Performance Reports.    

Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee Early Childhood Humanitarian Initiative Report

This report from the Sesame Workshop (SW) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) Childhood Humanitarian Initiative Advisory Meeting discusses the partnership’s support for millions of young children coping with violence, displacement, and neglect resulting from crisis and conflict. 

The plan includes development of new multimedia content addressing children’s critical developmental needs and reflecting specific experiences of refugee children and their parents shared through mobile devices, broadcast television, and print media at schools, community centers, social protection programs, and health clinics.


Call for Presentation Proposals

2018 NAEYC Annual Conference
Wednesday, November 14 – Saturday, November 17, 2018
Washington, D.C.

NAEYC seeks proposals that address timely topics (view tracks, topics & descriptions) and current challenges faced by early childhood professionals. Proposals should be grounded in best practices, informed by research,  support NAEYC’s mission, and meet the professional development needs of the conference’s core audiences. Deadline for Submissions: January 12, 2018.


Maximizing Federal Investments in Young Children Webinar Series: From KEA to Whole Child

Monday Jan 8
3:30–5 pm EST 

BUILD Initiative webinar explores the growing state and local interest in Kindergarten entrance assessment and a shift from assessment focus to an overall strategy to better support kindergarten.

This webinar features Vincent Costanza, Ed.D., Chief Academic Officer at Teaching Strategies and NAEYC board member; Kimberly Harshaw is a kindergarten teacher with 26 years of teaching experience; Lissette Rodriguez, an Early Childhood Supervisor in the West New York School District in New Jersey; and Megan Scott, Program Coordinator for the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness. Register here. 

Early Education News Roundup

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

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