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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 17, Issue 30

July 27, 2018

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Pre-K As Remedy, Lessons Learned, Implementation

Hot Topics

Quality Pre-K as a Remedy

This week, a New Mexico district court ruled that state education funding is inadequate and ordered the Legislature to provide essential resources giving “at-risk students the opportunity to compensate for any barriers they may face”—including providing quality full-day pre-K.

The judge determined the “evidence demonstrated that schools across the state suffered from inadequate instructional materials, curricula and teachers,” according to the Education Law Center, national advocates for equal educational opportunity and education justice in the US.

To remedy the constitutional violation, the judge ordered that, by April 2019, legislators must “take immediate steps to ensure that New Mexico schools have the resources necessary to give at-risk students the opportunity to obtain a uniform and sufficient education that prepares them for college and career.”

Elements deemed “essential” by the court include quality full-day pre-K, summer school, after-school programs, research-based reading programs and small class size (noting ELL students especially benefit from smaller class size).

The judge’s ruling that New Mexico was failing to meet its constitutional obligation to public school children, especially those at risk, is similar to the landmark ruling in New Jersey that 20 years ago pioneered high-quality preschool for children in poor communities to prepare them for kindergarten.

The Abbott lawsuit, filed by ELC, successfully challenged New Jersey’s failure to provide resources and funding necessary to give children in high-poverty urban districts a “thorough and efficient” education as mandated by the state’s constitution.

In response to the constitutional violation, the court ordered several groundbreaking remedies, including equalizing K-12 funding between wealthy and poor districts. But perhaps most important was the court’s first-in-the-nation directive to provide “well planned, high-quality” preschool for all three- and four-year-olds residing in urban neighborhoods across the state.

Recently, questions have been raised about the value of investing public dollars in preschool; however, the investment in Abbott preschool is already paying huge dividends—and New Jersey is expanding that investment to reach more children.

Research on the Abbott Preschool Program found the program produces persistent academic gains through the fifth grade for children enrolled in two years of preschool. The research also shows the program narrowed achievement gaps between at-risk children and their more advantaged peers by 20 to 40 percent, and reduced both grade retention and special education placement rates—yielding considerable savings for school districts and the state.

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 which states have done the best job expanding access to pre-K for 4-year-olds from 2002 to 2017.


NEW on Preschool Matters Today blog

Lessons Learned

The annual CEELO/NAESC-SDE Roundtable brings together state early education specialists, national experts and advocates to share ideas, generate new ones, and reboot our collective enthusiasm for the challenge of improving children’s lives through education policy.

This year, about 140 participants spent two days tackling issues during work sessions. But the best part is the informal interaction among colleagues, swapping stories and sharing advice. To keep that good conversation going, we asked former state education policymakers now at CEELO and NIEER to talk about what they know now that they wish they had known then. Read more

NIEER Activities

NIEER is partnering with the Early Childhood Development Action Network on a new webinar series exploring implementation research and practice for early childhood development, featuring authors from the recent Annals of The New York Academy of Sciences Special Issue.

The series begins Wednesday August 1, 2018 at 9 a.m. and features Special Issue editors Aisha Yousafzai Harvard University, Frances E. Aboud of McGill University, and Pia R. Britto of UNICEF, exploring the central role implementation research plays in understanding context, assessing performance, improving quality, facilitating systems’ strengthening, and informing large-scale use and sustainability of early learning interventions. Elizabeth Lule of the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN) will introduce and moderate this conversation. Register here

“Why does implementation evidence matter for ECD?”
August 1, 2018
9 am ET
Register here

The ANYAS Special Issue Implementation Research and Practice for Early Childhood Development shares research suggesting ways to strengthen interventions and strategies for embedding them within systems, making significant progress in unpacking the “how” of implementation. Register here. NIEER Co-Director for Research Milagros Nores, Ph.D. is both an author and a co-editor of this Special Issue. Join the Implementation Research and Practice for Early Childhood Development mailing list.

CEELO Update

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently launched a new webpage designed to share resources, encourage conversation and share TA opportunities that can enhance an office of early learning’s effectiveness.

The Building Highly Effective State Offices of Early Learning webpage features Defining Highly Effective Offices of Early Learning in State Education, a new vision paper by Lori Connors-Tadros, Rolf Grafwallner, Jana Martella, and Thomas Schultz, along with presentations from a recent meeting featuring state early ed leaders sharing best practices, identifying solutions to challenges they face, and exploring ways to work more effectively together on behalf of young children and families.


Too little or too much? Actionable Advice in an Early-Childhood Text Messaging Experiment

A new release in the National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series notes that while text-message based parenting programs have proven successful in improving parental engagement and preschoolers’ literacy development, programs found to be effective have provided a combination of general information about important literacy skills, specific examples of such activities, and encouragement. The regularity of the texts each week throughout the school year also provides nudges to focus parents’ attention on their child. In this study, investigators examined whether actionable advice alone drives previous study’s results and whether additional texts of actionable advice improve program effectiveness.

Researchers suggest that text messaging programs can supply too little or too much information. For example, a single text per week was found not to be as effective at improving parenting practices as a set of three texts that also included information and encouragement. However, a set of five texts with was found not to be as effective as the three-text approach.

Researchers further suggest that results on children’s literacy development depend strongly on the child’s pre-intervention literacy skills. They explain that for children in the lowest quarter of the pre-treatment literacy assessments, only providing one example of activity decreases literacy scores by 0.15 standard deviations relative to the original intervention. Literacy scores of children in higher quarters are marginally higher with only one tip per week. Researchers report no positive effects of increasing to five texts per week.

The Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management Program: Outcomes from a Group Randomized Trial

In a new study published in Prevention Science, researchers implemented a  group randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management Program on student social behavioral and academic outcomes. Researchers used a large, diverse sample of students within an urban context. Participants included 105 teachers and 1,817 students in kindergarten to third grade.

Researchers indicate that the program reduced student emotional dysregulation and increased both prosocial behavior and social competence. Additionally, students initially lower on measures of social and academic competence improved compared to similar peers in the control classrooms.

Do High-Quality Kindergarten and First-Grade Classrooms Mitigate Preschool Fadeout?

In a new paper published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, researchers examined whether advanced content and high-quality instruction in kindergarten and first grade, as well as professional supports to coordinate curricular instruction, reduce fadeout of the effects of preschool. The research is based on secondary data from two preschool experiments.

Researchers report that across both studies, measures of instruction did not moderate fadeout. However, results indicated that targeted teacher professional supports substantially mitigated fadeout between kindergarten and first grade, though this was not mediated through classroom quality. Researchers suggest that future researchers should investigate the specific mechanisms through which aligned preschool-elementary school curricular approaches can sustain the benefits of preschool programs for low-income children.

A systematic review of strategies to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among 0- to 5-year-olds

In a new systematic review of the literature published in Obesity/Public Health, researchers summarize evidence for strategies designed to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among children aged 0 to 5 years. Twenty-seven studies met the inclusion criteria.

Researchers suggest, based on the review, that interventions successful at reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among 0-year to 5-year olds often focused on vulnerable populations, were conducted in preschool/daycare settings, specifically targeted only sugar sweetened-beverages or only oral hygiene, included multiple intervention strategies, and had higher intervention intensity/contact time.

Visual attention in 5-year-olds from three different cultures

In a new article in PLoS ONE, researchers assessed 144 five-year-old children from three cultural contexts (urban Germany, rural Cameroon, urban Japan) to investigate variations in attention across a variety of tasks. Attention to the elements of a visual scene was assessed in an optical illusion task, in picture descriptions and an eye-tracking paradigm. Attention to and learning from others’ activities was assessed in a parallel action task and a rule-based game.

Some tasks indicated higher context-sensitive attention in urban Japan, while other findings indicated higher context-sensitive attention in urban Germany. Levels of parallel attention and learning from others’ activities were lower in rural Cameroonian children compared to the urban samples. Across tasks, the visual attention measures were unrelated. Researchers suggest that these findings substantiate that culture has had a profound influence on early cognitive development by the time of the preschool years.


Stanford University GSE

Stanford’s Graduate School of Education is seeking applications for an open-rank tenure-track faculty position in the area of psychological approaches to early childhood development or education. Successful candidates will demonstrate a creative and productive program of research, and a commitment to excellence in teaching and advising graduate and undergraduate students. Responsibilities include conducting an independent program of research, mentoring students, and teaching primarily graduate level courses. For additional details and to apply, click here.


NCSL Webinar: Prekindergarten Across the Country

Thursday August 16
2 pm

Join this National Conference of State Legislatures webinar at 2 pm ET Thursday, August 16 featuring CEELO’s Senior Project Director, Lori Connors-Tadros discussing The State of Preschool 2017 yearbook, and calculating costs for quality using the CPQ&R, as well as from state legislative colleagues who have worked directly with improving quality and access to prekindergarten in their states. Register here.

Early Education News Roundup

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

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