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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 18, Issue 10

March 8, 2019

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Promises, Roundtable, Exemplars

Hot Topics

Pre-K Promises

State budget season is officially open, as governors across the country recently laid out their spending priorities – including pre-K.

Thirty-six states elected governors in November—including 16 new to the job–and seven states elected superintendents of schools, along with more than 6,000 state legislators. With recent changes in federal policy–think the “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)” and new PDG-B5 grants–progress in early education depends more than ever on state policymakers.

In recent weeks, media reports governors from “red” and “blue” states, from coast-to-coast, are urging legislators to invest more in state-funded preschool programs:

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy proposed another $68 million for the expansion of preschool, a big jump exceeding even last year’s $50 million, estimated to enroll another 6,800 children.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf proposed $5 million to expand home-visiting programs for pregnant women and at-risk infants and toddlers, $15 million in federal funds to reduce waiting lists for high-quality childcare, and $5 million for wrap-around services so parents can attend college or other training to get skills for family-sustaining jobs, along with “a careful study of the costs and benefits of moving to universal free full-day kindergarten for every 5-year-old in Pennsylvania.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called for “tripling our investment in evidence-based home-visiting programs.  And, by increasing our investment in quality, early childhood education, we will improve the children’s odds for success” in his State of the State address.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined an $85 million, or 35 percent, funding increase for the Great Start Readiness Program that would increase the income threshold to qualify to 300 percent of the federal poverty level from 250 percent and  increase per-child funding for full-day preschool to $8,500 a year, from $7,250.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker—a philanthropist who has donated millions to early childhood causes –included a $100 million increase for preschool as part of a $594 million early education spending plan in his first budget proposal, saying “Investing in early childhood is the single most important education policy decision government can make.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has called for expanding NC Pre-K for another 3,000 children over the next two years, plus funding for “capacity building” to “address the barriers communities face to expanding NC Pre-K, including rising operating costs and a reimbursement rate that has not changed since 2012.” (See recent NIEER study of NC Pre-K)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s budget proposal includes a $25 million expansion of the state-funded, high-quality and voluntary First Class Pre-K program. If approved by the state legislature, the proposed funding increase would open an additional 240 classrooms next year.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is proposing the state spend more than $20 million over the next two years to expand a pilot program for public preschool (although the investment was dropped in the first round of legislative committee action).

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujn Grisham has designated $60 million for the state preschool program in her proposed budget, with a goal of achieving 80 percent statewide enrollment over the next five years.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is seeking $1.8 billion for a range of early education programs including plans to phase-in universal preschool for low-income 4-year-olds over three years.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s budget package would maintain current funding and an additional $358.9 million investment in expanded early care and education programs for low-income children and families. This includes expanding high-quality preschool and targeted kindergarten readiness programs to serve 10,000 more children.

Political will, vision and leadership are considered “essential” to providing high-quality public preschool programs, based on Jim Minervino’s “15 Essential Elements” study. Governors have laid out a vision—now let’s see who has the will.

Comparison of Governors’ proposals with actual progress suggests that  political will does not always accompany the vision, and, of course, legislatures have their own visions which may not align with the Governors’.  NIEER’s evaluation of vision, leadership, and political state by state can be found in the recently published Implementing 15 Essential Elements for High-Quality Pre-K: An Updated Scan of State Policies .

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

NIEER Co-Director for Research Milagros Nores will participate in a session during the  Implementation Research and Practice for Early Childhood Development Conference, April 5-6th, 2019 at Harvard University. Dr. Nores will discuss her Aeio-TU longitudinal study in Colombia.

The conference, co-hosted by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, is supported by The Conrad Hilton Foundation. The goal of this conference, including Harvard students, faculty, fellows, and invited external experts on ECD, is to discuss current evidence and best practices for program implementation, impact, mechanisms, and scalability.

In 2018, the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences published a special volume of articles bringing together implementation research and practice for ECD, identifying emerging issues requiring further research in order to advance evidence-based programming for young children, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

The conference will feature a series of panels addressing overarching questions: What are the best available “global goods” for supporting ECD globally and are they being implemented? And what goods are needed in the future, and what research questions and study designs are necessary for producing these goods?

CEELO Update

The annual Roundtable meeting co-hosted by CEELONAECS-SDE, and CCSSO’s ECE-SCASS, will be May 29-31, 2019 in Long Beach, CA.

The 2019 theme is Equity First: Strengthening an Equity Agenda for State Early Childhood Education Policy. Throughout the sessions, presentations and activities, national technical assistance partners will work to build capacity of state agency early childhood specialists to provide informed leadership about research-based practices that directly impact the development and learning of children, birth through grade three.

Please visit the website for more information and registration.

Nominate a colleague for the 2019 Light Award by sending an email here by March 15.


Impact of a Parent Text Messaging Program on Pre-Kindergarteners’ Literacy Development

A recently released study in AERA Open examined how a parent text messaging program affected pre-kindergarteners’ literacy development during an academic year in a suburban public school setting that prioritized enrollment for children living in poverty. Researchers randomly assigned parents within children’s classrooms to receive either a language and literacy text messaging program or a health and well-being text messaging program.

Researchers found that children entering the school year with higher skill levels benefited from the language/literacy program while those with lower initial skill levels benefited from the health/well-being program. Researchers suggest that some families may benefit from text messages on basic needs such as sleep, nutrition, health, and behavior and that others may benefit from a language/literacy program. They further suggest that a “one size fits all” approach to text messaging when working with families may not be warranted, based on the results of this study.

Leading by Exemplar: Lessons from Head Start Programs

A new report released by Bellwether Education Partners provides an in-depth analysis of five high-performing exemplary Head Start programs from across the country. The programs were selected because they demonstrate significant positive impacts on children’s learning. They are referred to as exemplar programs.

The authors of the report describe practices and characteristics that are common across the Head Start exemplars. Policies, program practices, and enabling conditions are areas highlighted as well as challenges common across programs. Researchers suggest that their findings have implications for Head Start and early childhood providers as well as leaders overseeing state pre-K and other public early childhood programs. They also suggest that this research can be informative to philanthropic funders and federal policymakers who are trying to improve early learning outcomes and advance equity for low-income children. The report is part of the Leading by Exemplar project, a multi-year study conducted by Bellwether Education Partners.

South Carolina Early Childhood Annual Data Report 2019

The Institute for Child Success is pleased to announce the digital release of the South Carolina Early Childhood Annual Data Report 2019. The SC Data Book is a catalog of public domain data for use by anyone (citizens, parents, service providers, public officials, foundations, and others) with an interest in early childhood indicators of family environment, physical health, emotional well-being and cognitive development.

This data book provides information about individual and systems-level indicators as well as environmental factors impacting children, from pre-birth to 8 years, in South Carolina. We compare them to children in neighboring states, North Carolina and Georgia, and to children nationwide.

Bidirectional and Co-Developing Associations of Cognitive, Mathematics, and Literacy Skills During Kindergarten

A new study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology examines relationships among cognitive (executive function and visio-motor integration) and academic (applied problems and letter-word) skills. The research was based on data from 555 Kindergarten children from 2 states.

Researchers found both cognitive (executive function and visio-motor integration) and academic (applied problems and letter-word) skills at time 1 were associated with at least one other skill at time 2 in kindergarten. They also found the starting level of executive function and applied problems predicted gains in all cognitive and academic skills measured over time.  They suggest that multiple skills undergird early mathematics learning and vice-versa. These and other findings are discussed.

Physical Activity Levels and Social Interactions of Preschoolers With and Without Disabilities

A new study in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation examined differences in physical activity levels and social interactions among preschoolers with disabilities, without disabilities, and those at risk for a developmental delay (DD). The study was based on data from 60 preschoolers.

Although preschoolers at risk for a DD were more active and interactive than the other groups, overall, preschoolers across all three groups engaged in light physical activity and had limited social interactions with peers. Researchers suggest there is a need for more structured large gross motor time in preschool settings to promote physical activity and social interactions in preschoolers with all abilities.

Impact of a Social Skills Program on Children’s Stress: A Cluster Randomized Trial

A new paper in Psychoneuroendocrinology reports on a cluster-randomized controlled trial to test whether a social skills intervention could reduce diurnal cortisol levels (an indicator of stress) to more typical patterns expected of children at this age. The study was based on data from 361 children in 19 public child care centers in low-income neighborhoods of Montreal, Canada.

The intervention group (10 centers) participated in the Minipally puppet program consisting of 2 workshops a month for 8 months for the development of social skills and self-regulation, with reinforcement activities between workshops.  Children in the control group in 9 centers participated in the same curriculum without the Minipally program. Saliva samples for cortisol levels were collected 3 times/day, pre- and post-implementation.

A significant interaction between intervention status and time of day of cortisol sampling was reported. The intervention group showed patterns of decreasing diurnal cortisol secretion, whereas the control group showed increasing slopes. Further, researchers report that children in lower-income families benefited most from the intervention. Researchers suggest that a social skills training program, when integrated into a preschool education curriculum, can foster an environment more conducive to typical childhood patterns of cortisol secretion.


Duke University

The Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University is seeking a postdoctoral research scientist to work with Professor Ken Dodge in conducting studies of the early development and prevention of violent behavior. The position is an initial two-year appointment that can be renewed, and will work closely with colleagues in the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy (CCFP). Please see the attached position description for additional details. Applicants should apply here


2019 National Early Childhood Inclusion Institute

May 07-09, 2019
Friday Center for Continuing Education
Chapel Hill, NC

This 3-day conference provides an educational opportunity for people from all early childhood sectors to  learn, share, and problem-solve about inclusion for young children. Topics covered include research findings, models, and resources to guide inclusive policy, professional development and practice. Register here.

Early Education News Roundup

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

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