April 23, 2021 – Volume 20, Issue 16


The State of Preschool Yearbook 2020: Most US Preschoolers Don’t Get a Quality Pre-K Education, the Pandemic Made it Worse

The COVID-19 pandemic set back state preschool enrollment and funding across the U.S., more than in any other sector of education, according to “The State of Preschool 2020” by the NIEER. The annual survey found:

  • Growth in state-funded preschool was slowing before the pandemic
  • The pandemic imposed serious setbacks and reversed recent progress
  • Uneven progress among states is worsening inequality in children’s access to high-quality preschool
  • Most states spend too little per child to support high-quality, full-day pre-K, and few reach all their children

Enrollment in state-funded preschool increased slightly in 2019-2020, but took a hit in 2020-2021. “Lawmakers need to act now to address learning loss and stress on young children and families, and get pre-K back on track,” NIEER’s Steven Barnett said.

Inadequate funding and quality standards pose serious problems. “Funding is a key impediment to quality and current spending is less than half of what is needed in many states,” said Allison Friedman-Krauss, NIEER assistant research professor. “Teaching staff are poorly paid and some programs offer children as little as 10 hours of preschool each week. Nationwide, we estimate that programs need an average of at least $12,500 annually per child to provide a full school day, raise quality standards, and offer pre-K staff pay parity with K-12.”

The survey revealed bipartisan support across the country for preschool, with both “red” and “blue” states among the nation’s leaders. This offers hope for a federal initiative to aid states in raising quality and increasing access. To illustrate how this might work, the Yearbook presents an example of a federal proposal to share costs with the implications for each state based on each state’s estimated cost for a program that meets minimum quality standards and provides a full-school day of services at ages 3 and 4.

Created in 2002, the NIEER’s state preschool yearbook is the only annual national report on state-funded preschool programs, tracking enrollment, spending, and policies to support quality. This year’s report includes special sections on the pandemic’s impact and policies to support dual language learners.

“The State of Preschool 2020” was supported with funding from the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Cost modeling and funding analyses were supported with funding from the PNC Foundation. Click here for more information and detailed state-by-state profiles on quality, access, and funding.

NBCDI Power Packet Includes Recommendations for Rebuilding ECE for Black and Latinx Children

The National Black Child Development Institute is a 50-year-old organization that advocates for Black children and their families in the areas of education, care and health. NBCDI serves as a national resource agency providing programs, publications, advocacy and trainings related to: early childhood care and education; health and wellness; and literacy and family engagement. The organization created the “NBCDI Power Packet” with information about its advocacy campaigns, including “Delivering on the Promise of Effective Early Childhood Education (ECE)” and “Responsible Transformation of the ECE Workforce.” There’s also a page of congressional recommendations concerning rebuilding early childhood education back better for Black and Latinx children. For information about NBCDI, visit the website here.


Recent news stories on “The State of Preschool 2020”:

Links to additional stories are available here.


NIEER Has Key Role in Two New PDG B-5 TA Products

Two new products created with assistance from NIEER are now available from the National Technical Assistance Center for Preschool Development Grants Birth Through Five (PDG B-5 TA):

  • The Early Childhood Finance Toolkit is a collection of tools, guidance, and resources for state early childhood leaders who want to learn more about different aspects of financing. It is curated to provide state leaders the guidance and support they need as they develop a more comprehensive and aligned fiscal system in multiple early childhood settings. The toolkit, available here, was developed by NIEER’s GG Weisenfeld, along with Harriet Dichter from ICF and Howard Morrison from SRI Education.
  • “How Governance Influences State Early Childhood Systems” is a video developed by NIEER’s Lori Connors-Tadros, Ron Fried of SRI, and Jane James of ANLAR. The video shares the lessons learned and insights of three experienced state early childhood administrators. Each state has consolidated early learning programs in different state agencies; however, they share a common goal to create greater efficiency, accountability, and access to programs for all children, particularly vulnerable children and families. View the video here.

NIEER’s Steven Barnett Discusses Covid-19’s Impact On Educating Children

NIEER founder and co-Director W. Steven Barnett was a guest on the “On the Pandemic” podcast, discussing the impact of COVID-19 on the health and education of children. Hosted by Mary Marchetta O’Dowd, the podcast is available here.


The Infant and Toddler Policy Research Center at the National Institute for Early Education Research (ITC@NIEER) recently participated in “Show + Tell New Jersey,” a program that connects New Jersey health and early childhood organizations with interested parties, including potential funders. View ITC@NIEER’s video presentation here. ITC@NIEER’s participation was made possible thanks to The Nicholson Foundation and The Turrell Fund.


A Missed Opportunity? Instructional Content Redundancy in Pre-K and Kindergarten

A survey of teachers from six school districts in rural North Carolina showed that 37% of math, language and literacy content covered in kindergarten was a repeat of instruction taught in public pre-K. Researchers found that children from families living at or below the poverty line “experience significantly higher rates of redundant content,” and that the highest rates of redundancy appeared to occur for basic content items, such as the identification of letters and sight words.

“The finding suggests that considerable time in kindergarten classrooms is spent covering content previously taught to children enrolled in the NC Pre-K program, and that, consequently, this is not time spent on new and/or more advanced skills and concepts,” wrote authors Lora Cohen-Vogel, Wonkyung Jang, Margaret Burchinal, and Mary Bratsch-Hines of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Michael Little of North Carolina State University. Before changes are made, “more research is needed to better understand, first, the instructional practices related to the content domains and, second, what costs and/or benefits accrue to children exposed to redundant content.” Read the study here.

Australian Early Childhood Teachers’ Understanding of Bullying

A survey of 95 early childhood teachers in Australia on their understanding of bullying and fighting found that many struggled to explain the distinguishing differences between the two behaviors. While most teachers identified bullying behaviors in 20 presented scenarios, “some teachers misinterpreted some non-bullying behaviors as bullying,” wrote researchers Lesley-anne Ey of the University of South Australia and Marilyn Campbell of Queensland University of Technology. They suggested there is a need to increase teachers’ knowledge of bullying “to support the prevention and intervention of bullying”. Read the abstract here.

Number Line Development of Chilean Children from Preschool to the End of Kindergarten

Children’s understanding of number lines at the end of kindergarten compared to the start of pre-K showed dramatic change, researchers found. At the start of pre-K, 86% of the Chilean children “randomly placed estimates on the line,” but by the end of kindergarten, 56% “showed competent performance across the number line,” according to the researchers. Number line performance changed as children developed cognitive and numerical skills, they noted.

“For pre-kindergarten children, number identification may be a more sensitive and meaningful tool for assessing early numeracy knowledge than number line estimation,” they concluded. The number line estimation task may be an appropriate research tool for children who’ve completed kindergarten “because many children will have developed the necessary precursor symbolic number skills.”

The study was conducted by: Chang Xu, Sabrina Di Lonardo Burr, Heather Douglas, and Jo-Anne LeFevre of Carleton University in Canada, and María Inés Susperreguy of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Read the study here.

Early Educators’ Collective Workplace Stress as a Predictor of Professional Development’s Impacts on Children’s Development

Researchers studying the impact of early childhood educators’ professional development found it “positively impacted child outcomes in centers where educators collectively reported high workplace stress but negatively impacted child outcomes in centers where educators collectively reported low workplace stress.” The study, based on a sample of 406 children from the National Center for Research on Early Childhood Education Professional Development Study, examined impacts on children’s language and literacy skills, executive functioning, and learning behaviors. Emily C. Hanno, Dana C. McCoy and Kathryn E. Gonzalez of Harvard University in Massachusetts, and Terri J. Sabol of Northwestern University in Illinois conducted the research. Read the abstract here.

“It Felt Good to Be Included”: A Mixed-Methods Study of Pre-Kindergarten Teachers’ Experiences with Professional Learning

Pre-K teachers who attended annual professional learning conferences offered by a university had “strong and consistent efficacy beliefs related to their abilities to manage their classrooms and students,” researchers found. Classroom observations confirmed teachers’ self-assessments in literacy instruction.

The study, involving 29 teachers from a high-need school district, included interviews with participants. Some expressed “feelings of exclusion from most professional learning experiences, and offered insight into considerations for designing and delivering professional learning opportunities to effectively support pre-k teachers’ literacy instructional practices,” the researchers wrote.

“Across all three years, respondents emphasized an appreciation for pre-k focused PL and for the opportunity to learn from and with other pre-k teachers,” wrote researchers Kim Stevens Barker and Elizabeth Pendergraft of Augusta University in Georgia and Do-Hong Kim of Wayne State University in Michigan. Read the study here.