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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 17, Issue 48

December 7, 2018

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Teacher Prep, Beantown and CA Dreamin'

Hot Topics

Research on Teacher Preparation

A new report from Bellwether adds to the ongoing conversation about what qualifications early educators should have in order to provide the high-quality learning opportunities children need.

Let the Research Show examines research on how an early educator’s preparation affects their effectiveness in the classroom and finds “no clear answers about what high-quality teacher preparation looks like.”

The report states that if public policy is going to require educators earn degrees, there should be proof such preparation improves practice—especially given the time and tuition required to obtain additional credentials. “And right now, the research can’t guarantee that.”

Bellwether’s report highlights in-service professional development as an effective strategy to enhance teacher effectiveness and calls for identifying competencies that educators should master, rather than regulating teacher preparation programs.

“Early childhood educators do crucially important, highly skilled work and deserve to be respected and compensated on a level commensurate with the value of their work,” the report concludes. “Valuing early educators as professionals must mean resisting the temptation to impose simple solutions and instead investing the time, energy, and resources needed to develop new models and approaches that can meet their needs.”

This report raises difficult questions for the field: What counts as evidence? What conclusions are warranted by what we know? How should we proceed given the inevitable uncertainties?

NIEER offers some partial answers. First, while recognizing that more research is needed, let’s also recognize that much of what we know about preparing teachers lies outside the narrow “what works” research literature estimating average associations between teacher qualifications and children’s test scores.

Second, the conclusion that a high level of teacher preparation is unnecessary because it does not guarantee success is a non sequitur. It may well be necessary, but not sufficient. Moreover, professional development (PD) alone does not yield the results we want for young children (cites below) and cannot substitute for adequate preparation. Strong PD is likely one of a set of policies needed for greater success.

Third, policies should favor over-engineering quality over setting the bar too low. The payoff to success far exceeds the cost-savings from spending too little and failing to provide strong early education.

Experimental Impacts of a Teacher Professional Development Program in Chile on Preschool Classroom Quality and Child Outcomes

Impact of In-Service Professional Development Programs for Early Childhood Teachers on Quality Ratings and Child Outcomes: A MetaAnalysis

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

A Focus on Teaching and Learning in Pre-K through Second Grade – Lessons from Boston

Despite growing pre-K enrollment across the country, there is an emerging consensus that high-quality pre-K is not enough to give every child what he or she needs to succeed and thrive in school and life. Without reforms to the early elementary grades that follow pre-K, it is unrealistic to expect students to maintain the advantages they gained as a result of their pre-K experience. As a result, policymakers, district leaders, and school leaders are beginning to rethink what and how children are learning in kindergarten, first, and second grade.

It turns out that one city has been at the forefront of this work over the past decade: Boston.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Senior Co-Director Ellen Frede will participate in a live webinar at 2 pm ET Monday December 10 hosted by EdSource exploring how California should address the lack of widespread access to quality preschool in light of governor-elect Gavin Newsom’s pledge to create a “cradle-to-career” education system.

The webinar will feature Deborah Stipek, a professor at Stanford, and Beth Meloy, an early childhood expert at the Learning Policy Institute, who will provide the California context; while Dr. Frede will explain how New Jersey went about piecing together preschool programs. Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, executive director of The Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement, Inc. (BAHIA), also will participate. Register here

This week, Dr. Frede accompanied a group of California ECE stakeholders visiting New Jersey to observe the state’s high-quality pre-K program in action and discuss implementation, funding and expansion of the groundbreaking Abbott preschool program. The Abbott pre-k program  serves all three and four year-olds in the 31 lowest income school districts. The California team are on a learning tour of pre-k in Boston, NJ and NYC to gather information to help them in planning for improving and expanding pre-k in their state. 

CEELO Update

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently published a new resource to assist state efforts to define and develop highly effective offices of early learning.

The presentation by Lori Connors-Tadros and Jana Martella highlights the CEELO Vision paper addressing organizational capacity, effectiveness, and leadership and staff capabilities necessary for states to lead improvement in the long-term.

Presenters also explore strategies and opportunities for advocacy that focus on creating organizational capacity. Additional resources are available on the CEELO website’s Highly Effective Offices of Early Learning page.


Funding an Equitable Education for All Students: Research for State Policymakers

A new study from the Learning Policy Institute addresses the complexity of school finance issues facing state legislators and policymakers and discusses approaches to developing well-balanced, equitable, and efficient school finance systems focused on ensuring meaningful educational opportunities for all students.

The study, which is part of a series on school finance reform, describes the essential building blocks used for designing such systems, and includes a brief overview of three state examples that illustrate how to create more equitable, high-quality school finance systems.

Taxing Sugary Beverages to Expand Prekindergarten: The Advocacy Lessons of Philadelphia and Santa Fe

Two researchers at the University of Maryland released a new study of advocacy campaigns to fund the expansion of preschool programs through a local tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The researchers reviewed web-based materials available in 2018, interviewed key leaders and participants in the advocacy coalitions supporting each tax, and conducted one interview at a major media outlet.

While advocates in the two cities shared the same goals and advocated for the same financing mechanism, the study finds they operated in substantially different political landscapes and chose different strategies on everything from campaign financing to messaging. The report describes what advocates can learn from the campaigns.

Fostering Pre-K to Elementary Alignment and Continuity in Mathematics in Urban School Districts: Challenges and Possibilities

A new brief and a longer technical report released by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) researchers describe challenges facing pre-K–3 alignment in California and offer promising practices and policy recommendations, based on a study that analyzes two large urban California districts attempting to connect pre-K and K–3 learning. The report focuses specifically on math, but researchers suggest their findings can apply to any subject.

Although California has invested in aligning early and elementary education, researchers suggest little is known about what strategies have been effective. This study shows strategies districts use to align pre-K and elementary education can have differential impacts. Researchers suggest that  providing support for teachers and leaders can help create a more seamless educational system across early and elementary education to benefit student learning.

Promoting Emotional Intelligence in Preschool Education: A Review of Programs

A new paper released in the International Journal of Emotional Education compares four selected social-emotional learning curricula that have empirical support for preschool students (Preschools PATHS, Incredible Years, Al’s Pals, and Preschool RULER). Researchers examine meta-analytic studies of SEL programs in schools and research on the emotional intelligence of preschool children as a background for understanding the four programs.

Researchers then examine preschool emotional intelligence research as it relates to outcome variables such as school engagement, social adjustment, emotion regulation, and academics. The programs are then critiqued and compared on focus, context, and structure of delivery, intervention strategies, and potential for cross-cultural adaptation.

Long-term Effects of Preschool on School Performance, Earnings and Social Mobility

Studies in Microeconomics recently published a paper formulating and then estimating the production processes for cognitive skills and non-cognitive skills such as social and motivational skills during early childhood development and the long-term effects of these skills on learning and lifetime earnings of an individual. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY) data set, researchers suggest this paper provides a calibrated inter-generational altruistic model of parental investment in children’s preschool.

Researchers use this dynamic model to estimate effects of publicly provided preschool to the children of poor socioeconomic status (SES) as a social contract on lifetime earnings distribution, inter-generational college, and social mobility, as well as the tax burden of that social contract.

Relations Between Preschoolers’ Mathematical Language Understanding and Specific Numeracy Skills

Past research has found math language is related to numeracy skills, broadly measured. A new study released in the Journal of Experimental Psychology examined relations between math language and specific numeracy skills, based on data from 124 preschoolers.

Results indicated that mathematical language was significantly related to most numeracy skills, including verbal counting, one-to-one correspondence, numeral identification, cardinality, comparisons of sets and/or numerals, ordering numerals, and story problems. It was not significantly related to either subitizing or formal addition because these skills are independent of general language ability, researchers suggest. Importantly, mathematical language was generally more proximal to each of these numeracy skills than was general language.

Researchers suggest the results can inform the development of more precise measures to identify children at risk for mathematics difficulties as well as the incorporation of focused mathematical language instruction within early mathematics interventions.


Abt Associates

Abt Associates is hiring several positions related to Early Childhood Education in Cambridge, MA.

Principal Associate – Requisition #57296 (MA/MBA (15+) years of experience OR PhD (10 – 15) years of experience OR the equivalent combination of education and experience)

Senior Associate – Requisition #58702 (MA/MS with 15+ years of experience OR PHD with 8-10 years of experience OR the equivalent combination of education and experience)

Associate– Requisition #58703 (MA/MS with 7-10 years of experience OR PhD with 4-6 years of experience OR the equivalent combination of education and experience)

If you have questions, please email


National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs

January 30-February 1, 2019
Grand Hyatt
Washington, D.C.

The Ounce of Prevention Fund is pleased to invite researchers, advocates, policymakers, and practitioners to this eighth annual summit focused on home visiting. Register here
The summit will include communities of practice providing peer learning opportunities addressing pressing issues in the home visiting field. Each community includes an online learning management system, providing members with the ability to share resources and continue conversations between meetings. Three separate communities will focus on Health services, Professional development, and Advocacy and policy.

Early Education News Roundup

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

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