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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 17, Issue 28

July 13, 2018

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Ready or Not, PDG and Long-term Gains

Hot Topics

Get Ready

Kindergarten readiness—how to measure it and how to define it—is in the news this week as a recently published study examines teacher attitudes and the new Head Start director makes it a priority.

School readiness will be a new focus for the Office of Head Start reflected in upcoming monitoring guidelines, according to new Director Deborah Bergeron. Dr. Bergeron announced the policy in the first video of an upcoming series on the agency’s website.

Dr. Bergeron explains that her experience as a public school administrator gives her a passion for school readiness, acknowledging that as an administrator she was “very disconnected” from the Head Start classrooms and saying Head Start needs to work with public schools to ensure children are prepared. Moving forward, OHS will “put a spotlight on school readiness,” she said, adding that “generally the best way to do that is through monitoring.”

Defining “readiness” has proved challenging as educators strive to nurture both socio-emotional development and academic skills. A study recently published in the Journal of Research in Childhood Education asked teachers to identify the specific skills that are most important to readiness and to define readiness in their own terms. “Kindergarten teachers continue to prioritize social-emotional and behavioral skills as most important,” the report states.

While Kindergarten Has Changed, Some Beliefs Stay the Same: Kindergarten Teachers’ Beliefs About Readiness found that although policies “tend to promote an academic emphasis in U.S. kindergarten classrooms,” teachers consistently identify nonacademic skills as key to kindergarten readiness—and those responses have been consistent across surveys in 2000, 2011 and 2013.

As the authors suggest, “these findings have implications for early education as programs seek to ensure children are ready for kindergarten.”

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

This new chart based on the State of Preschool 2017  report shows percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in state-funded pre-K per state in 2016-17.

NIEER Activities

With generous funding from three New Jersey foundations, The Nicholson Foundation, the Maher Charitable Foundation and The Henry & Marilyn Taub Foundation, NIEER is helping state policymakers and other key stakeholders prepare for expanding public preschool opportunities to more school districts.

The recently approved fiscal 2019 state budget includes an additional $83 million for public preschool expansion and enhancement. NIEER is helping the state and school districts assess the needs of districts and private providers in their communities that may need support to accommodate this expansion, with a focus on existing classroom quality, adequacy of facilities, availability of qualified teachers and leaders, and attitudes regarding collaboration both between districts and private providers and across districts.

CEELO Update

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO)  this week shared a funding forecast from the Administration for Children and Families at US-HHS for the new Preschool Development Grant B-5 opportunity as noted in the Every Student Succeeds Act.

This new PDG B-5 grant is intended to help states coordinate existing early care and learning programs and services based on identified needs–not to create new early care and learning programs.

The PDG B-5 grant initiative can assist in coordination of existing early care and learning services and funding streams to provide equal access to more children birth through age five in a mixed delivery model. See here for more information.  Note the estimated Synopsis Post Date:   Aug 14, 2018 and the estimated Application Due Date:  Oct 15, 2018.  

CEELO has a number of resources that can assist in preparing for this opportunity. See the Cost of Preschool Quality & Revenue Calculator and the Early Learning and ESSA webpage. CEELO will keep you informed of additional information and supports available on the grant-cycle as they are released.

Please reach out to your CEELO TA lead for additional assistance and information to help your state bring key stakeholders together to determine if and how this grant may be an opportunity for your state to strengthen a shared vision for young children.


Early Childhood Education and Later Educational Attainment and Socioeconomic Wellbeing Outcomes to Age 30

A study recently published in the New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies examines associations between attendance at early childhood education and longer-term academic attainment and socioeconomic wellbeing in a New Zealand birth cohort studied to age 30. After adjustment for family background and child characteristics, results showed statistically significant trends for increasing duration of ECE attendance to be associated with: greater attainment of high school and university qualifications and higher adult socioeconomic wellbeing.

“Previous research has led to arguments that ECE is unnecessary, uneconomic and inappropriate as some studies have shown that educational benefits appear to diminish or wash-out during adolescence,” the report states. “Despite extensive analysis, we were unable to find any evidence of wash-out of the effects of ECE attendance over time.”

Classroom Process and Practices in Public Pre-K Programs: Describing and Predicting Educational Opportunities in the Early Learning Sector

A new study in Early Education and Development used data from 117 publicly funded preschool classrooms within a large, diverse, suburban county to describe teacher practices and child engagement. They also describe classroom activity settings and children’s exposure to instructional content.

Researchers report that children spent the largest share of the day in teacher-directed whole-group instruction and in free play. Very little time was spent in individual and small-group settings. Although a third of the school day was dedicated to academic activities, there were few opportunities for socio-emotional learning, and children spent roughly a third of the school day in routines/transitions and meals, authors report. While few differences emerged in the classroom observations across school- and community-based programs, overall, more educated and experienced teachers spent more time teaching and in teacher-directed instruction.

How African American Mothers from Urban, Low-Income Backgrounds Support Their Children’s Kindergarten Transition: Qualitative Findings

A new study in Early Childhood Education Journal utilized qualitative interviews to explore how 20 mothers from urban, low-income African American backgrounds facilitated their Head Start preschoolers’ transition to kindergarten. Researchers found that, despite possessing parental/family risk factors associated with ineffective kindergarten transitions, mothers monitored and assessed their children’s academic and socio-emotional school readiness abilities and promoted readiness competencies while addressing readiness weaknesses.

Researchers further report that one of the ways mothers supported children’s transition readiness was through one-on-one conversations with preschoolers. Researchers suggest that Head Start can assist families and children prior to kindergarten and continue to serve as a link between families, children and elementary schools, as the transition to kindergarten is not only a critical milestone in children’s lives, but has implications for academic and future life success.

Preschoolers’ Selective Sustained Attention and Numeracy Skills and Knowledge

Past research indicates children’s sustained selective attention (SSA) and early numeracy are positively associated, yet some concerns have emerged about the age appropriateness of tools used to measure preschoolers’ SSA. A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,  examined the relationship between at-risk preschoolers’ selective sustained attention and early numeracy skills and knowledge using the Track-It Task.

Researchers found the ability to sustain attention in the face of distractions was positively related with preschoolers’ early numeracy. Researchers suggest that this study provides preliminary evidence that SSA may facilitate the process whereby young children become reliable counters and learn that the symbol system of numbers represents specific quantities. They also report the Track-It Task demonstrated strong psychometric properties in this study.

Development of First- and Second-Language Vocabulary Knowledge Among Language-Minority Children: Evidence from Single Language and Conceptual Scores 

A study recently published in the Journal of Child Language evaluated the development of vocabulary knowledge over the course of two academic years. The study began in preschool, with  a large sample of language-minority children, using scores from single-language vocabulary assessments and conceptual scores.

Researchers suggest that conceptual scoring is a useful assessment technique for children with limited exposure to their second language. They further suggest the research has implications for assessment and instruction of young children.

Preschoolers’ Visual Attention during Electronic Storybook Reading as Related to Different Types of Textual Supports

In a new paper released in Early Childhood Education Journal, researchers documented preschoolers’ attention to print and pictures during an electronic storybook reading session. Children looked at a 12-page book that contained three types of pages, each presented four times over the course of the book: (1) silent presentation of print, (2) print that was read aloud, and (3) print that was both read aloud and highlighted. Researchers examined whether the way in which print was presented related to the ways in which children attended to print and pictures during the reading session. Gaze fixation duration to print and pictures was assessed using a portable eye tracking unit, which captured corneal reflection data for each child.

Children’s total fixation duration to print was greatest when print was read aloud and highlighted as compared to when it was presented silently or read aloud. Researchers suggest that results demonstrate the potential utility of nonverbal print referencing strategies during book reading. These and other findings are discussed.


CT Office of Early Childhood

The Office of Early Childhood (OEC) is recruiting for an Education Consultant to play a critical role in development of this new agency.  This position will be joining a team responsible for the administration of child care funding for the state. Submit resume here. Questions should be directed to the Office of Early Childhood human resources office: or (860)713-6697.


ERS National Conference

October 10-12, 2018
Hilton Del Mar Hotel
San Diego, CA

The 2018 ERS National Conference will feature learning community sessions taking a deep dive on current ERS topics with authors of the Environment Rating Scales and  mini-presentations from leaders in the field followed by small group discussions to expand knowledge and skills.
Registration and information.

Early Education News Roundup

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

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