August 27, 2021 – Volume 20, Issue 34


New NIEER Survey Finds Pandemic Continues to Negatively Impact Young Children and their Parents

NIEER has released initial findings from its study, The Pandemic’s Impact on Young Children and Their Parents, based on a spring 2021 preschool learning activities survey and two previous surveys NIEER conducted in 2020.

The report shows that parental supports for early learning—especially parent-child reading 3 or more times per week—continued to decline and that rates of serious social-emotional problems continued to rise. On the upside, identification of needs and the provision of services for young children with disabilities appears to have improved after an earlier decline. Most parents reported that they likely would send their child to an in-person preschool or kindergarten for the fall despite concerns about COVID-19. More than 80% indicated they would likely take advantage of a free universal pre-K program if it became available in the fall.

This report of initial findings was written by Kwanghee Jung, NIEER associate director for data management and statistics, and W. Steven Barnett, senior co-director and founder. The PNC Foundation provided funding for survey development and administration. Read the report here.



Securing Funding for Your Child Care Program

Exchange Press has developed three videos on federal child care funding. “Federal Funding and the Rebuilding of American Child Care” explores the current delivery system and its challenges, provides details on relief funding flowing into the field, and looks at prospects for dramatically increased funding in the future.

The series features insights from NIEER’s Karin Garver and GG Weisenfeld, along with advocates from NAEYC, NHSA, Child Care Aware, ECEC, Bipartisan Policy Center, TEACH, National Indian Child Care Association, and First Children’s Finance. Some $50 billion in federal funding for child care is now available, and an additional $50 billion to $70 billion a year for the next decade is under consideration. View the videos here.


Video Available for Webinar about Best Practices in Early Learning Governance and the Impact on the Workforce

Video of a webinar on early learning governance best practices is available on YouTube here. NIEER Senior Research Fellow Lori Connors-Tadros recently conducted the webinar for the National Council on State Legislatures. It covered the findings of the report, Effective State Offices of Early Learning: Structural Features, Enabling Conditions, and Key Functions in Four States, along with the lessons learned that could inform the governance of early learning in other states.



The Development of Cognitive Functioning Indices in Early Childhood

A study aimed at assessing early developmental trajectories of cognitive functioning found that cognitive composite indices (CCIs) identified at age 4 ½ — but not those at nine months or age 2 — were strongly related to cognitive outcomes at age 8, according to New Zealand researchers.

Their work is based on data from 6,074 children enrolled in the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study.

Study authors Elizabeth R. Peterson, Lisa Underwood, Susan M. B. Morton, and Karen E. Waldie of The University of Auckland noted a lack of established measures that can be used across the ages of early childhood. The researchers identified “CCIs at 9 months and 4.5 years that may be used to further explore the development of cognitive functioning in early childhood.” Read the study here.


Armed Conflict and Early Childhood Development in 12 Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Exposure to war increases the likelihood young children will experience delayed development, especially when the exposure is chronic, researchers found analyzing data on 27,538 children ages 3 to 5 from 12 low- and middle-income countries. Exposure to armed conflict disproportionately impaired socioemotional development, they noted.

“Children in affected areas should be provided psychosocial support and early childhood education from an early stage,” concluded authors Ryunosuke Goto of the University of Tokyo Hospital in Japan; Thomas Frodl of Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg in Germany, and Norbert Skokauskas of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Read the abstract here.


“We’re More Than a Daycare”: Reported Roles and Settings for Early Childhood Professionals and Implications for Professionalizing the Field

Researchers examining how early childhood professionals described their role found they prefer the term “teacher” because it reflects their efforts of preparing children for formal schooling. Many early education practitioners “contrasted their work with daycare and babysitting, noting that planning, curriculum use, expertise, program quality, funding mechanisms, professionalism, and early childhood as an important developmental period all contributed to their roles as teachers in preschool settings,” the authors wrote. The study was conducted by Rachel E. Schachter of the University of Nebraska, Qingyu Jiang and Shayne B. Piasta of The Ohio State University, and Erin E. Flynn of Portland State University in Oregon. Read the abstract here.


Cognitive, Psychosocial, and Behaviour Gains at Age 31 Years from the Jamaica Early Childhood Stimulation Trial

Impoverished babies and toddlers with stunted growth who received stimulation interventions from 1987 to 1989 showed lasting positive impacts three decades later, researchers found.

The study involved Jamaican children who were between 9 months and two years old when the two-year supplementation and stimulation trial began. “At 31 years, participants had wide-ranging benefits with better cognition, executive function, mental health, psychosocial skills and fewer risk behaviours,” the researchers wrote.

Gains were found in the participants’ IQ, cognitive flexibility — the ability to change perspective and adjust to new demands, grit, and conscientiousness, while they had fewer depressive symptoms, less substance use, and less risk-taking than a comparison group.

The study was authored by: Susan P. Walker, Susan M. Chang, and Amika S. Wright of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica; Rodrigo Pinto of the University of California at Los Angeles; James J. Heckman of the University of Chicago; and Sally M. Grantham-McGregor of University College London in the United Kingdom. Read the study here.


The Effects of STEM Activities on the Problem-solving Skills of 6-year-old Preschool Children

STEM activities improved the problem-solving skills of 6-year-olds, researchers found. Eighteen children participated in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities three days a week for eight weeks. The study was authored by Beyza Akcay Malcok of Kırklareli University in Turkey and Remziye Ceylanb of Yildiz Technical University, also in Turkey. Read more here.



Associate Director of Data, Research, and Evaluation, Children’s Equity Project

Deputy Director, Early Milestones Colorado

Evaluation Coordinator, South Carolina First Steps

Office Manager, Denver Preschool Program