February 12, 2021 – Volume 20, Issue 6

HOT TOPICS

ITC@NIEER Presents ‘5 Things We Know and 5 Things We Don’t But Should’

The Infant and Toddler Policy Research Center at NIEER presents “5 Things We Know and 5 Things We Don’t But Should” on Friday, Feb. 19. The hourlong webinar beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET is a conversation about child care and education for infants and toddlers in New Jersey. The panelists are:

  • Dr. Arturo Brito, The Nicholson Foundation
  • Allison Friedman-Krauss, ITC@NIEER
  • Beverly Lynn, Program for Parents, Inc.
  • Natasha Johnson, New Jersey Division of Family Development
  • Cecilia Zalkind, Advocates for Children of New Jersey

Register here. ITC@NIEER produces research and research-based technical assistance and policy analysis to inform national, state, and local policies on child care that enhances the education and development of infants and toddlers.

Research for Action Conducts ECE Lead Teacher Certification Survey

Early childhood lead teachers, program administrators, parents/guardians of children age 8 and under, policymakers, and ECE program directors/deans at universities are invited to participate in an online national survey. Conducted by Research for Action, an independent nonprofit, the survey will collect opinions about creating a certification for individuals to demonstrate competencies (knowledge, skills, and abilities) needed to effectively teach and care for young children, and serve as a lead teacher.

The researchers want to hear from people with experience in ECE classrooms and care settings, whether or not the program is accredited or licensed. Programs could be in a public or private school, child care center, or a home.

The study, conducted on behalf of the Council for Professional Recognition, is funded by the Early Educator Investment Collaborative and runs through March 2021. Data is kept confidential. Sixty random participants who enter their email address in the survey will receive a $25 e-gift card. Click here to take the survey in English and here to take it in Spanish.

NIEER ACTIVITIES

NIEER’s W. Steven Barnett to Appear on Education Week

NIEER Senior Co-Director and Founder W. Steven Barnett will be a guest for Education Week’s “A Seat at the Table,” a live online talk show hosted by Peter DeWitt, Ed.D. The episode will explore what new developments in early-childhood education mean for school and district leaders, and what the pandemic has meant for early-childhood learning more generally. Register here.

NIEER OPPORTUNITY

ECE Policy Research Professor – Open Rank

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers Graduate School of Education is seeking a non-tenure track research professor (open rank). Please join our multidisciplinary group of researchers and policy experts to conduct and communicate research designed to stimulate policymaking. Our research informs policy to support high-quality, effective early childhood education from infancy through the primary grades. We collaborate with a network of local, state, national and international leaders to design, conduct and disseminate rigorous research, evaluation and policy analysis. Use your ECE conceptual knowledge and research expertise to partner with elected and appointed officials as well as philanthropic partners to improve young children’s learning, development and well-being. Apply by March 7. Click here for more details.

A Predictable Home Environment May Protect Child Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the mental health of young children, researchers found that family routines are resilience-promoting, “with the potential to mitigate these adverse influences.”

The study involved 169 preschoolers ages 2½ to 6, and their mothers. Nearly a quarter of the families had at least one parent laid off or furloughed as a result of the pandemic, and half had at least one parent employed as an essential worker. Nearly 30 percent of the families experienced some food insecurity, according to the study.

Assessments found that preschoolers’ depressive symptoms and conduct problems were elevated compared to pre-COVID norms. In families that employed more routines, rates of child depressive symptoms were lower, while increases in conduct problems were less likely, the study concluded.

Researchers noted that the benefits of routines on child mental health persisted after accounting for household income, food security, dual parent household status and maternal psychological distress.

The study, funded through a National Institutes of Health grant, was written by Laura M. Glynn of Chapman University in California; Joan L. Luby of Washington University in St. Louis; Elysia Poggi Davis, affiliated with both the University of California, Irvine and Washington University; and Tallie Z. Baram and Curt A. Sandman of the University of California, Irvine. Read the study here.

Accelerating Early Language and Literacy Skills through a Preschool-Home Partnership Using Dialogic Reading: A Randomized Trial

Researchers found that preschoolers whose parents were instructed in a strategy called dialogic reading showed gains in early language and literacy skills. The study involved 87 children ages 2 and 3, and their parents/caregivers. Early childhood teachers had adults in the intervention group encourage their child to engage in the telling of the story while they read a book together at home. The participants were followed for 18 to 20 weeks.

“The impacts of the six-week parent involvement intervention continued to grow during the six-week follow-up phase, and represented substantial gains of the intervention group in four aspects of early language and literacy skills,” wrote the researchers, YaeBin Kim of the University of Nevada, Reno and Dave Riley of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Read the abstract here.

Preschoolers Will Drink Their GREENS! Children Accept, Like, and Drink Novel Smoothies Containing Dark Green Vegetables (DGVs)

Getting young children to eat their greens may not be as tough as adults imagine. A new study found that preschoolers given a green smoothie (a blend of fruits and leafy greens like spinach, collard greens and kale) were willing not only to taste it, but to drink a cup of it during snack time.

Children gave a “moderately liked” rating to the green smoothies, the researchers said. The study involved 68 preschoolers in Pennsylvania ages 3 to 5 (along with a parent of each). Green smoothies were given to 32 children, while the others got fruit-only smoothies.

“Preschool children showed high acceptance of the green smoothies,” The Pennsylvania State University researchers Brandi Y. Rollins, Wendy Stein, Kathleen L. Keller, and Jennifer S. Savage wrote. They noted that children with lower food pickiness, higher food responsiveness, or who had more experience eating dark green vegetables consumed more of the green smoothies. They suggested that adding dark green vegetables to fruit-based smoothies could increase children’s vegetable consumption. Read the study here.

Prevalence and Prediction of Kindergarten-Transition Difficulties

Researchers from The Ohio State University found that 70% of children struggled with transitioning to kindergarten in at least one of five areas. The study conducted during the 2017-18 school year involved 688 children, 30% of whom had transition challenges in all five areas measured: making friends and interacting with classmates, following schedules and routines, adjusting to the classroom’s academic demands, working within groups in the classroom, and being organized.

Based on teacher ratings, more than half the children had at least some difficulties in meeting academic standards, being organized, working in groups, and making friends, according to the study. Boys struggled more than girls, and children with disabilities were more likely to have difficulties than those without individual education programs, the study found.

Researchers Hui Jiang, Laura Justice, Kelly M. Purtell, Tzu-Jung Lin, and Jessica Logan said the study “demonstrates that transition problems are predictable.” They noted that kindergarten has become more academic in recent decades, a focus vastly different than in preschools. The study found that children who live with more children in their household and those from non-English speaking homes had fewer transition difficulties than counterparts.

“Reducing the discontinuity between children’s experiences prior to and after kindergarten entry is a viable option for easing the transition,” they concluded. Read the study here.

Building Integrated Peer Relationships in Preschool Classrooms: The Potential of Buddies

Recognizing that healthy peer relationships contribute to positive social and academic outcomes, researchers explored the impact of an easy-to-implement program that encourages preschoolers to play with other-gender peers. The study found that “Buddy Up” increased children’s play with peers they had not previously played with. Boys who participated in Buddy Up “maintained relatively consistent levels of social engagement throughout the semester,” in contrast to boys in the control group, who showed declining engagement, the research found. (Girls in both the intervention and control groups maintained their levels of engagement in social play.)

Teachers for the intervention group were encouraged to make other-gender peer pairings weekly and provide multiple enjoyable and cooperative activities for the pairs to engage in. “Group-based preschool provides an early opportunity to support social integration before social segregation becomes more entrenched, making social integration more difficult to attain,” the authors wrote.

They noted that Buddy Up requires little effort for teachers to learn or prepare for, and is adaptable. “Overall, the benefits demonstrated in this first test of Buddy Up indicate that there is return on teachers’ investment and provide promise for further research and application,” they concluded.

The study was conducted by Laura D.Hanish, Carol Lynn Martin, Rachel Cook, Dawn DeLay, Crystal Bryce, and Richard A. Fabes of Arizona State University; Bridget Lecheile of the Washington Association for Infant Mental Health in Seattle; and Priscilla Goble of Texas State University. Read the study here.

OPPORTUNITIES

Professors of Education (Associate/Full), Endowed Chairs in Early Childhood Education and Education and Neuroscience, School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia