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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 17, Issue 37

September 14, 2018

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Pre-K Prime, Survey Says and Hispanic Data

Hot Topics

Pre-K Prime

This week’s announcement that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie are making a 10-figure donation to create a network of nonprofit preschools in low-income communities is important not only because of the sizable investment but also for focusing attention on the fact most children still lack access to high-quality programs.

The “Day 1 Academies Fund” will be part of a $2 billion donation to aid homeless families and create “a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools,” Bezos stated via Twitter.  “We will build an organization to directly operate these preschools. I’m excited about that because it will give us the opportunity to learn, invest , and improve.”

Bezos intends to “use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon”—specifically “genuine, intense customer obsession” with children as the customers.

The investment comes as state pre-K programs generally are failing to significantly expand access to the high-quality pre-K that can provide children with lasting positive benefits. In response to state inaction, cities are stepping up to meet the needs of their families.

For example, Washington’s preschool program enrolls just 8% of 4-year-olds and 5% of 3-year-olds, according to  State of Preschool 2017 report. Seattle’s Pre-K program, funded by a city tax, has grown from serving about 300 children in 2015 to nearly 1,4,000 with plans to serve 1,615, according to media reports.

A recent national report assessed whether the nation’s 40 largest cities provide high-quality preschool programs (using NIEER quality standards benchmarks), as one of nine key policies experts say help residents lead healthier lives and make communities thrive.

Why should cities be concerned? The simple answer is that cities have far more of the children and families who suffer from inequality of opportunity and its long-term consequences. Cities—and the low-income communities Bezos is targeting—will benefit most from correcting the problem.

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

NEW on Preschool Matters Today blog

Bright Horizons Plans to Pay for Teachers to Earn Degrees: Questions, Concerns & Thoughts

Although online degree programs may be a good fit for Bright Horizons’ workforce, there are drawbacks with these programs. Former New America policy analyst Shayna Cook wrote a report about the challenges and opportunities of online programs. The report found a lack of reliable data about online programs and outcomes for participating students. Also it identified students’ lack of access to “affordable broadband and an up-to-date computer” as a potential challenge to meeting course requirements.
So it’s fair to ask: What additional time and resources do early care and education teachers need to be successful online students? Is Bright Horizons going to help provide those as well? Read more

NIEER Activities

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) is partnering with the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN) on a new blog and webinar series examining issues highlighted in the recent Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Special Issue Implementation Research and Practice for Early Childhood Development. Join the ECDAN mailing list to learn about upcoming events and new resources.

The next webinar will feature NIEER Co-Director for Research Milagros Nores, Ph.D., an editor for the ANYAS Special Issue, and Nirmala Rao, Ph.D.,  a University of Hong Kong professor of early childhood development and education, focusing on Implementation issues and continuous improvement within preschool settings. Register here to join this interactive presentation and discussion starting at 9 a.m. ET Wednesday October 3, 2018.

The first blog, by Special Issue editor Aisha Yousafzai of Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health, focused on answering the question commonly asked by policy makers about programs that promote early child development: What program elements, policies, and/or family and community circumstances contribute to positive results and under what conditions? Find the blog here

The opening webinar, “Why does implementation evidence matter for ECD?” featured Special Issue editors Aisha Yousafzai Harvard University, Frances E. Aboud of McGill University, and Pia R. Britto of UNICEF, explaining 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. If you missed the webinar, watch the full webinar here. For the audio only version of the webinar, listen here.

CEELO Update

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently launched a new online Resource Library.

Resources, including reports, presentations, toolkits, Leadership Academy and technical assistance resources, have been organized into an easy-to-use format that users can search by content area, resource type, title, date and key word.


National Public Opinion Study: Affordable Child Care and Early Learning for All Families

The Center for American Progress, the Center for Community Change, and Make It Work collaborated with GBA Strategies to design and field a comprehensive national survey of voter attitudes. Overall, this study finds that parents today face significant challenges finding quality, affordable child care for their families.
Voters at all stages of life, and across political lines, overwhelmingly back specific proposals to provide sliding-scale support for working parents to help afford good child care, to increase standards and oversight in child care facilities, and to improve the professionalization and pay of child care workers, the report states. By large margins, voters also report that they are more likely to back candidates for office who support and take steps to increase funding for these and other proposals.

In a new study published in Heliyon, researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of existing interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in preschool-aged children based on articles published between 2001 to 2015. Outcome measures were communication, behavioral and cognitive skills, reported as standardized mean differences (SMD) compared to a control group. Authors note that Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by significant impairment in social communication and the presence of a restrictive and repetitive behavior or interest. Intervention during early childhood could decrease ASD symptoms, they suggest.

Out of the initial 5,174 studies identified for the review, 14 were randomized controlled trials (RCTs), that included 746 children, included in the final systematic review and meta-analysis. Researchers found three studies of music therapy interventions provided the greatest outcome effects.  They also report the quality of the health care provider, the duration, and the intensity of intervention played important roles in the effectiveness of the intervention. Researchers suggest music therapy appears to be an effective tool for improving social interaction in preschool-aged children with ASD. However, they suggest more evidence-based trials are required to provide further evidence for the validity of the effectiveness of music therapy in ASD.

The current state of early literacy for deaf and hearing children: A survey of early childhood educators

A new study in the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy examined the literacy activities and materials provided to both hearing and deaf children through a survey of 155 early childhood educators who work primarily with one of these populations. Authors note little is known about the frequency and types of literacy experiences offered to deaf children, compared to those offered hearing children.

Researchers indicate that, although there is room for improvement in both populations, deaf children, in particular, may not be receiving access to high-quality literacy activities in early childhood educational settings. Authors suggest improved preparation and continued development of all early childhood educators in early literacy.

Utilization of Mental Health Services by Preschool-Aged Children with Private Insurance Coverage

A new study in the journal Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research examined treatment of preschool-aged children with mental health conditions. Authors found only a small proportion of preschool-aged children receive any behavioral interventions, including psychotherapy, in conjunction with having a filled psychiatric prescription.

Nearly all of the preschool-aged children who had psychotropic prescriptions filled had no other claims for treatment, and among those children who had prescriptions for psychotropic medication filled, the vast majority did not have a mental health diagnosis on a claim. The authors discuss implications of their findings.

Using Data-Driven, Video-Based Early Childhood Consultation with Teachers to Reduce Children’s Challenging Behaviors and Improve Engagement in Preschool Classrooms

In a new School Mental Health study, researchers conducted a small randomized trial examining the impact of Learning to Objectively Observe Kids (LOOK), which involves the use of data from validated measures about children, and video-based feedback, to guide teachers’ selection and implementation of behavioral strategies. Authors note that consultation to teachers can be an effective intervention for reducing young children’s challenging behaviors within the classroom, yet there is a need for more efficient approaches that provide data-driven, video-based support to enhance and expand teacher and child impacts.

Researchers report that LOOK impacts teachers’ use of social-emotional teaching strategies and self-efficacy, as well as children’s positive and negative engagement with teachers, peers, and learning activities in preschool classrooms.

Teacher-child closeness as a protective factor for at-risk children experiencing residential mobility

A recently released study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology explored the extent to which teacher-child closeness during prekindergarten moderates the association between residential mobility and behavior problems in kindergarten for children living in non-parental care. The research was based on a sample that included 260 Head-Start eligible children from the Head Start Impact Study.

Researchers suggest that closeness with teachers may help curb the impact of mobility on externalizing problems during the transition to kindergarten for children in non-parental care. While residential mobility was not significantly related to behavior problems, teacher-child closeness predicted fewer behavior problems and teacher-child closeness moderated relations among mobility and externalizing behaviors. Implications for future research and intervention development are discussed.


National Governors Association

The NGA Center for Best Practices seeks an experienced professional to join the Education Division as a senior policy analyst who will focus on policy issues related to Social Emotional Learning.

The division is focused on helping governors develop and enact effective education policy and support its implementation. To do this, the education division provides information, research, policy analysis and technical assistance to governors and their staff in the areas of early childhood, K-12 and higher education. The division also helps governors bridge the system divides among the early childhood, K-12, higher education and workforce training systems. Click here for details


State of the Data on Hispanic Children & Families

2:oo pm ET
Thursday, September 20, 2018

This  National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families webinar builds on a series of briefs and interactive data tools to help identify data  on the diverse Hispanic population and growing numbers of Hispanic children and families. Discussion will focus on strength of current data, where data could be improved and goals for future data collection efforts.  Click here to register.

Early Education News Roundup

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

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