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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 18, Issue 5

February 1, 2019

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Tangled, Screen Time and Costing ECD

Hot Topics

Examining the Evidence

A new report by the Learning Policy Institute finds students who attend high-quality preschool programs reap benefits that can last through school and their lives, based on evaluations of more than 20 large-scale public preschool programs.

Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness: Insights for Policymakers is intended to put in context recent evaluations of Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K program and Head Start that reported mixed results on long-term benefits to children. Both studies have cast doubt on the value of public preschool programs.

LPI’s report finds that children who attend high-quality programs are more prepared for school and experience substantial learning gains in comparison to children who do not attend preschool, noting that interpretations of results often depends on the groups of students being compared.

When participants are compared to others who attended similar preschools—or to a more generally advantaged comparison group—differences in their elementary school performance tend to be smaller. This does not mean preschool effects “fade out” or that preschool is not effective; it means that the children in both groups benefit similarly, the report states.

In addition, elementary school quality makes a difference for the strength of ongoing effects in terms of achievement, school progress, and attainment, according to the report.

Studies of high-quality programs that have followed students into adulthood find robust economic returns, mainly because people who attend preschool are more productive in school, work, and society generally—with benefits that include higher levels of education and earnings, less involvement in delinquency and crime, and fewer chronic health problems.

NIEER’s Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES) based on standardized tests given to all New Jersey children in fourth and fifth grade found preschool associated with persistent gains in language arts, literacy, mathematics, and science. Test score gains were roughly twice as large for children who participated in two years of preschool rather than one. Those who attended Abbott pre-K also were less likely to repeat a grade or to need special education.

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

Research Shows High-Quality Pre-K Can Pay Off, Now Let’s Deliver It

Preschool programs have the potential to help equalize what children have the chance to learn, preparing all children for success in the classroom and beyond and having a particularly powerful impact on children from low-income households.

A wide body of rigorous research has found this to be true. However, political battles continue over whether and how to invest in preschool. Feeding the debates are evaluations of two programs—Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K program and Head Start—with mixed results for students as they made their way through elementary school, confusing policymakers and the public about whether investments in preschool programs “fade out” or  make an ongoing difference for student success.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett and Karin Garver, NIEER  early childhood education policy specialist, this week spoke with business and civic leaders in Delaware about the value of public investment in high-quality preschool.

Little has changed since 2002, with preschool enrollment and spending per child relatively flat. Delaware ranked 36th in the State of Preschool 2017 yearbook on access to state-supported pre-K, with less than 10 percent of 4-year-olds enrolled. State pre-K met 7 of 10 new quality standards benchmarks but enrollment and total state spending were down from 2015-16. On a positive note, the program expanded eligibility to include 3-year-olds for the first time in 2017-2018.

Increasing access to quality pre-K is aligned with the goals of civic initiatives in Delaware including PNC’s Grow Up Great and Wilmington Rotary Club’s aspiration for the city, with a priority on “prepared and hopeful” youth.

This new study published in JAMA Pediatrics investigated whether higher screen time affects performance on developmental screening tests and whether children with lower scores on those tests received more screen time, based on observations including 2441 children followed up at age 24, 36, and 60 months.

Researchers present this study as the first to provide evidence of a directional association between screen time and poor performance on development screening tests among very young children. The consequences of excessive screen time have garnered considerable attention in research, health, and public debate over the past decade, the study states; but less certain is what comes first: delays in development or excessive screen time viewing?

Using a longitudinal, three-wave study, researchers address this question using repeated measures. Results suggest that screen time is likely the initial factor: greater screen time at 24 months was associated with poorer performance on developmental screening tests at 36 months, and similarly, greater screen time at 36 months was associated with lower scores on developmental screening tests at 60 months. The obverse association was not observed.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Preschool-Aged Children: A Review and Meta-Analysis

A new article in Early Childhood Research Quarterly provides a meta-analysis of 16 studies evaluating multi-tiered systems of support for preschool-aged children. Researchers suggest these systems provide a proactive model through which struggling students may receive targeted interventions without the need for a special education label.

Researchers found tiered support systems targeting social-emotional development were most successful. Those targeting literacy and language outcomes found marginal evidence of effects. Researchers suggest, based on current evidence, it is difficult to provide system-wide recommendations to those individuals involved with multi-tiered systems of support in early childhood education.

Risks for Child Cognitive Development in Rural Context

A recent Frontiers of Psychology article compares cognitive development of young children from different socioeconomic status backgrounds and contexts in Argentina. The study included 131 five-year-olds recruited from four public schools and their families. They conducted the study to understand which aspects of rural poverty pose risks to cognitive development in order to inform the design of public policies and education programs that might be tailored to the specific needs of SES groups in different contexts.

Researchers suggest that lower past preschool attendance and lower father’s completed level of education are more frequent in rural poverty in this study and are related to cognitive function at a young age. Researchers further suggest that child rearing context does not affect cognitive development per se, but that opportunities available in one context compared to the other can make a difference.

Early Sleep Deprivation and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

A new study published in Pediatric Research examines prospectively specific sleep patterns and risk of ADHD after adjusting for potential confounders. The study was based on data from a sample of 514 Chinese preschool children. Parents reported on their socioeconomic status and children’s sleep duration.

The cohort was reassessed three years later when the children were in Grade 3. Researchers found that sleep deprivation in early childhood was associated with a higher risk of ADHD in middle childhood.

Long-Term Effects of Institutional Rearing, Foster Care, and Brain Activity on Memory and Executive Functioning

A study recently released in the Proceedings of the  National Academy of Sciences (United States) examined longitudinal trajectories of memory and Executive Function (EF) from childhood to adolescence. The study utilizes data from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, the only existing longitudinal randomized controlled trials of foster care for institutionally reared children.

Researchers found that early institutional rearing has enduring consequences for the development of memory and EF, with the possibility of catch-up among previously institutionalized children who start out with higher levels of problems.

When institutionalized children were placed early in quality foster care, early difficulties in visual-spatial memory and new learning diminished by adolescence, making them indistinguishable from other children by age 16. Researchers also note that institutional rearing is associated with persistent problems in certain functional domains, and developmental stagnancy in others, across this transitional period, underscoring the impact of early neglect on children’s neurocognitive development.

The Effects of Home and School on Children’s Happiness: A Structural Equation Model

A  recent article in the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy analyzes the structural relationships between the important constructs of school, home and family, and the happiness of Abu Dhabi school children in the United Arab Emirates. The research was based on a survey of 14,837 students in schools in the three regions of Abu Dhabi.

Researchers used statistical modeling to examine both indirect and direct impact of both home-related and school-related variables on the happiness of Abu Dhabi school children.  Researchers found significant differences existed with regard to student gender, grade level, school location, school type, and nationality and that both school and home variables directly influence the happiness of school children.



The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE), at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) is seeking a Research Associate. CCSSE conducts cutting-edge research and proposes policy solutions aimed at improving how our nation prepares, supports, and rewards the early care and education workforce to ensure young children’s optimal development.

Online application is required. Please visit and search for Job ID# 26272.


Costing ECD Programs

9 a.m. ET
Wednesday February 6, 2019

This Annals of New York Academies of Science webinar will focus on generating consistent and accurate cost data for early childhood development interventions, identifying key components in a costing model and sharing learning from Bangladesh, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, and Mozambique.

Register here to join our interactive discussion with Emily Gustafsson-Wright and Izzy Boggild-Jones, co-authors of the article recently published in the ANYAS Special Issue Implementation Research and Practice for Early Childhood Development.

Early Education News Roundup

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

Subscribe to NIEER Weekly

Click here to subscribe or unsubscribe from our weekly newsletter.