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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 17, Issue 24

June 15, 2018

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Factoids, Quality and Pre-K Dancing

Hot Topics

Out with the Old?

In 1995, researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley reported that children of highly educated, professional parents heard many more words addressed to them than children of parents from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Later studies found differences in early language related to other academic and social differences among children and adults.

That difference became known as the “30 million-word gap,” a ubiquitous factoid in the early childhood advocacy toolbox used to convey the disparity facing children in low-income households.

Another famous study, known as “the marshmallow test” offered a child one marshmallow now or two later. This study, published in 1995, was intended to gauge a child’s willpower, which was linked to later success at school and work.

Recently, conclusions from both influential studies have come into question.

A new study reframed the marshmallow test findings, concluding that confounds not accounted for in the original study—including social and economic background—explain most of the association between delayed gratification and achievement. They also suggest that the test may measure other cognitive abilities that contribute to achievement test scores rather than ability to delay gratification.

And a study recently published in Child Development—described by authors as a “failed replication” of the word gap study—found variation in speech directed to children is unrelated to socioeconomic status and that including speech overheard by children would eliminate differences related to socioeconomic status. Critics note this new study failed to include high-income households that would account for the major differences and argue young children do not benefit from overheard speech as much as interactive speech.

However, the “30 million word gap” has been a herculean—or even foolish—extrapolation from data collected once a month for an hour from 42 families even apart from methodological problems with the study’s measure of vocabulary growth.

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

NIEER Activities

As the capstone speaker for the 2018 NAECS-SDE Roundtable, NIEER Founder Steven Barnett raised concerns about messages calling for “cheap child care” noting that research is quite clear on the disastrous consequences for children and negative long-term economic impacts of such. He asked state early childhood specialists and others to stay focused on providing quality learning opportunities to address equity through excellence for all to benefit children now and in the future. Policy makers must both design for effectiveness and support strong implementation once program standards and funding are in place. See Dr. Barnett’s presentation.

CEELO Update

Roundtable 2018 hosted June 7-8 in Austin by the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) and partner NAECS-SDE attracted about 140 participants, including state early education specialists and national early education experts, for sessions focused on preschool workforce development, early learning opportunities through the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), improving instruction and transitions for children from birth through third grade and equitably addressing the early learning needs of all children.

Speakers included Mississippi State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright Ed.D., whose has successfully pushed for measured roll out of a high-quality pre-K program; Libby Doggett, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for the US Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning, along with a panel of Texas early learning colleagues working on expanding early learning programs across the state; Andres Bustamante, who works with Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek at Temple University researching play as learning and creating learning landscapes projects; and Steven Barnett, senior co-director of NIEER.  View/Dowload Roundtable presentations.


Children’s Abilities to Communicate With Both Parents in Infancy Were Related to Their Social Competence at the Age of 15

In a new paper released in Acta Paediatrica, researchers monitored child‐mother‐father communication in 19 families from the general population in Sweden using the standardized Lausanne Triologue Play method in a video studio. Studies of children’s early ability to communicate have primarily focused on mother‐child dyads, but this study analyzed data on the long‐term effects of triadic interactions involving both parents.

Families and their first‐born child were followed from three months to preschool age when early communication was measured. After an age 15 follow-up, age 4 data were analyzed in relation to the children’s social competence at the age of 15. Researchers suggest that stimulating children’s capacity to initiate turn‐taking sequences in infancy improved early communication at four years and their social competence at the age of 15.

Effect of Preschool Home Visiting on School Readiness and Need for Services in Elementary School: A Randomized Clinical Trial

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics examines impacts of a preschool home visiting program, the Research-Based and Developmentally Informed–Parent home visiting program (REDI-P) on a number of competency domains through third grade and its impact on the need for educational and mental health services of its participants compared to a control group.

Researchers report the REDI-P produced sustained benefits four years after the intervention, significantly reducing children’s needs for school services. Researchers suggest this study demonstrates the value of preschool home visiting as a strategy to help close the gap in school readiness and child well-being associated with poverty.

Dancing Effects on Preschoolers’ Sensorimotor Synchronization, Balance, and Movement Reaction Time

A new Perceptual and Motor Skills study compares a group of preschool children who followed an 8-week dance program with a control group on pre- and post-test measures. All study participants were measured on sensorimotor synchronization, balancing on one leg, and movement reaction time.

Compared with the control participants, the dance group demonstrated significantly better pretest to posttest improvements on sensorimotor synchronization and balance (but not movement reaction time). Researchers suggest dancing should be included in early childhood curricula, given the importance of sensorimotor synchronization and balance for subsequent child development and performance of daily and sports activities.

The Physical Environment in Family Childcare Homes and Children’s Physical Activity

In a new study in Child: Care, Health and Development, researchers examined what aspects of the family child care homes’ (FCCHs) physical environment facilitate or hinder children’s physical activity. Children’s moderate‐to‐vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was measured using Actigraph GT3X+ accelerometers.

Researchers report that only indoor play space was significantly associated with children’s MVPA indicating that when provided with more indoor space for active play, children were more physically active. No significant associations were observed between portable play equipment or the outdoor environment and children’s MVPA. Researchers suggest that teaching FCCH providers how to best utilize their indoor play space for active play may be a way to promote children’s physical activity.

Developmental Patterns of Change in Mother and Child Emotional Availability from Infancy to the End of the Preschool Years: A Four-Wave Longitudinal Study

A study published in Infant Behavior and Development examines intra-individual developmental patterns of change in mother-child emotional availability during infancy and the preschool years, the factors that promote or hinder it, and the longitudinal within-dyad association between maternal and child emotional availability.

Researchers report that mother and child emotional availability are persistently related across the preschool period, but follow distinct developmental trajectories. Maternal emotional availability was found to be stable from infancy to the end of the preschool period, while child emotional availability increased across the preschool period. Researchers report that social support, maternal education and child gender predict maternal sensitivity and structuring.


Child Care Aware

Child Care Aware of Washington state is hiring a Program Manager, see job description.

Child Care Aware of Washington is a thorough and accessible source of information and support for families seeking quality child care and a trusted partner to child care professionals. CCA of WA provides culturally responsive coaching, technical assistance and professional development services designed to enhance statewide child care quality and consistency.

Send resume, cover letter and a sample of your best work (PDF or online portfolios recommended) to Alan Strand Director of Finance & Accountability at

For more information, visit the CCA of WA website


Impact Project

RFP Informational Webinar
1 – 2 p.m. EST
Monday, June 18, 2018

The Office of Child Care (OCC) invites policymakers and their partners to learn about and apply for the Impact Project assisting states and territories to develop and expand capacity for planning, investing in, and implementing quality early childhood (EC) systems, policies, and practices.

An optional webinar will be held on Monday, June 18 to provide an overview and answer questions about the request for proposal. Preregistration is required. Applications are due August 1.

Early Education News Roundup

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

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