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

NIEER Weekly

Volume 18, Issue 6

February 8, 2019

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Head Start, Making a Difference, AVANCE

Hot Topics

Head Start Headlines

A lengthy story in the New York Times this week declared Head Start, a federal program created in 1965 to help children and families overcome the disadvantages of poverty, “is getting better.”

The article, noting the Head Start Impact Study finding of “modest cognitive benefits that faded out within a year,” credits new standards and competition for grants with boosting the share of classrooms ranking “good or excellent.”

“In addition to the more stringent oversight, other factors that may explain rising scores include an increase in funding per child (18 percent in the last five years) and better teacher training,” the article states. “Nationwide, the share of Head Start teachers with a bachelor’s degree has risen to 73 percent, from 47 percent a decade ago.”

NIEER in 2016 published The State(s) of Head Start, the first report to describe and analyze in detail Head Start enrollment, funding, classroom quality, and duration, state-by-state,  finding dramatic variation in funding, classroom hours, quality, and percentage of low-income children served.

NIEER examined Head Start and Early Head Start data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and six territories for 2014-2015, as well as historical data from 2007 to 2015. State(s) of Head Start also includes data for Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs and American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) programs, which provide crucial services to populations that are particularly vulnerable.

Our analysis found that Head Start teachers across the country demonstrated an ability to provide strong emotionally supportive environments, and teachers in the majority of states also scored well on classroom organization. This is especially valuable as social and emotional skills are vitally important for later success in school and beyond.

However, programs in just two states, Kentucky and Vermont, could be determined to score above a research-based threshold for effective instructional support. Eighteen states scored significantly below this threshold.

The report also found variation in teacher qualifications, compensation, and turnover that can create problems for providing effective
programs, suggesting Head Start programs are not uniformly funded at levels adequate to ensure a high quality learning and development experience and attract and retain qualified teachers while providing all the required services.

News about Head Start improvement is encouraging yet a need remains for adequate funding to meet high standards without cutting back on the numbers of 3- and 4-year-olds who get access to these improved programs.

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

What Makes the Difference? Understanding implementation issues to inform scaling of early childhood services

Imagine you are in charge of developing or implementing a large scale early childhood program to reach a significant number of young children and families across a specific geographic area. Perhaps the plan is to reach several hundred children in a rural neighborhood or thousands of children in a few city blocks, or millions across a state, province or country. Whatever the extent or reach, moving to scale a program or set of services takes ongoing research, a different set of supports and new partnerships to assure some level of quality and effectiveness as the program grows.

Public officials and other implementers need ongoing data about how key program elements are working, what are the effects of such policies on various populations and which infrastructure supports can lead to better results for children and families. (See “What policymakers need from implementation evaluations of early childhood development programs.”)

NIEER Activities

NIEER Co-Director for Research Milagros Nores this week presented a brown Bag Lecture at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education discussing  The AVANCE Randomized Controlled Trials Outcomes Study.

This trial was part of a larger study on the cultural sensitivity of the AVANCE program. Dr. Nores’ paper addressed:

  1. The impact of the AVANCE program on participants’ parenting practices, child stimulation, knowledge about child development, attitudes and beliefs about parenting, social supports and difficulties, welfare resources and family functioning
  2. The impact of the AVANCE program on children’s cognitive, linguistic and social development, and their overall health? (Short term impact)

CEELO Update

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) this week shared ESSA and Early Learning – A Marathon Not a Sprint, a recent presentation by Jana Martella (CEELO) and Danielle Ewen (EdCounsel) during the 2019 ESEA Conference discussing evidence-based early learning initiatives that have emerged as ESSA is implemented across the country and provides advice and recommendations to SEA and LEA leaders on how to seize those opportunities.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has provided state education agencies (SEAs) with new and broadened opportunities to bring early learning to the forefront of their education strategies, and to encourage local school districts to do the same. Watch for a CEELO/New America blog series focused on ESSA implementation coming soon!


Self-Regulation and the Development of Literacy and Language Achievement from Preschool through Second Grade

A new paper released in Early Childhood Research Quarterly examined how trajectories of self-regulation development predict the way literacy and language skills develop from preschool through second grade. The research was based on data from 351 children who were assessed twice per year for up to four years on indicators of decoding, reading comprehension, phonological awareness, and vocabulary.

Researchers found that children who demonstrated self-regulation earlier had higher language and literacy skills throughout preschool to second grade and that earlier self-regulation was associated with higher skills and earlier development. Researchers suggest that self-regulation has an enduring and interrelated relationship to children’s language and literacy development.

Visual Perceptive Skills Account for Very Preterm Children’s Mathematical Difficulties in Preschool

A recent paper in Human Development compared Very Preterm (VP) children and their term-born peers on preschool mathematical achievement at five years and examined whether cognitive, visual-perceptive, visual-motor and motor-coordination skills, accounted for significant differences observed. A total of 80 children participated in the study

Researchers found that preschool mathematical skills and visual perceptive skills were significantly lower in VP children than in term-born children. A significant mediating effect of visual perceptive skills on the association between VP birth and preschool mathematical skills was also reported. Researchers found that at preschool age, VP children had poorer preschool mathematical skills compared to term-born peers.

Notably, those skill gaps were fully accounted for by poor visual perceptive skills. Researchers suggest that their findings have significant relevance of screening for visual perceptive skills at preschool age which could enable the timely identification of children at risk for mathematical difficulties.

Cumulative Classroom Quality During Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten and Children’s Language, Literacy, and Mathematics Skills

A new article in Early Childhood Research Quarterly examined classroom quality in pre-kindergarten (pre-K) and kindergarten in relation to children’s language, literacy, and mathematics skills in kindergarten. The study was based on data from 1,015 children who participated in state-funded pre-K programs across six states and were followed into the spring of kindergarten.

Researchers found that higher quality in pre-K uniformly predicted better kindergarten language and literacy skills at all levels of kindergarten quality. Higher quality in kindergarten also contributed to the prediction of better kindergarten language and literacy skills in an additive manner. Finally, higher quality in pre-K predicted better K mathematics skills for children who experienced high levels of quality in K. Researchers discuss the implications of their findings in relation to classroom quality alignment during pre-K and the early elementary grades.

Examining Sleep as a Protective Mechanism for Executive Functioning in Children from Low-Income Homes

A new study in Early Child Development and Care examined low socioeconomic status (SES) as a possible factor that increases vulnerability to the negative effects of poor sleep quality on young children’s executive functioning (EF). Researchers hypothesized that sleep quality would be more strongly associated with EF skills for children from low-SES homes than for children from the high-SES home.

Findings indicated that low family income predicted poorer performances in working memory. Additionally, sleep quality was associated with working memory, but only for children from low-SES homes. Researchers suggest that sleep quality may be especially important for the EF skills of children from low-SES homes.

Not So Depressed But Unhappy Mothers: Korean Mothers’ Mental Health and Infant Development

A new paper in Early Child Development and Care examined the relationship between the psychological states of Korean mothers and early childhood development. 480 mothers were classified into three groups: cluster A mothers were happy and competent, cluster C mothers were depressed and stressed, and cluster B mothers were neither depressed nor happy.

Researchers found that infants in cluster C exhibited midlevel outcomes, and infants in cluster B showed the lowest development in all domains. Researchers suggest that all new mothers, especially during the first year after birth, should be supported with psychological education and counseling through screening and active monitoring as well as initial treatment by health professionals.


Early Edge California

Early Edge California is seeking a communications associate to assist with shaping and executing EECA’s communications activities in support of its policy and advocacy agenda. The Communications Associate will execute communications plans, draft messaging, develop relationships with media outlets that reach key audiences, pitch reporters and secure coverage, manage organization’s social media presence, support event execution, and complete administrative tasks as assigned, with a focus on high-quality early learning programs, early learning workforce development, and Dual Language Learners. Apply here


National Early Childhood Inclusion Institute

May 7-9, 2019
Friday Center for Continuing Education
Chapel Hill NC

This three-day conference is an opportunity for people from all early childhood sectors to come together to learn, share and problem-solve about inclusion for young children. The 2019 Inclusion Institute will include world-class experts, groundbreaking sessions and state-of-the-art free courses for CEUs, as well as a plenary session featuring an interagency panel of policy leaders representing the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs, and the US Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration and Administration for Children and Families, Offices of Head Start and Child Care. Register here

Early Education News Roundup

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

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