February 4, 2022 – Volume 21, Issue 5


One Swallow Does Not a Summer Make: Drawing Valid Inferences From the Longitudinal Evaluation of Tennessee Pre-K Outcomes

Centuries ago the migration of swallows was known to be seasonal and their arrival a good predictor of the changing of seasons. The proverb about one swallow was a caution against generalizing from a single instance.  Hundreds of years after its common use, the overgeneralization of Vanderbilt’s Tennessee pre-K study suggests it should be brought back into common use.

First, let me quickly review the study and its important findings. When this study began in 2009, statistical studies of the state assessment data in Tennessee (e.g., Comptroller, 2008) had already revealed the Tennessee pre-K (TPK) program’s unique pattern of long-term outcomes. Children who attended that pre-K program performed better on achievement tests initially but were more likely to be placed in special education starting in kindergarten. As they moved through school, those who had attended TPK fell behind on achievement, and this negative outcome became worse as they progressed through the elementary grades. The Vanderbilt randomized trial confirms these results and adds additional measures including attendance and disciplinary incidents for which 6th grade outcomes also favor nonattenders.

The primary value of the Vanderbilt study is that it confirms the results of the broader, earlier statistical study in Tennessee. I see no reason to doubt them. Something has gone seriously wrong in Tennessee after exit from the pre-K program.  The results are surprising and disturbing. However, no other study—randomized or not—has found this unique pattern of outcomes from a preschool program (see a review here). Many other studies have found that initially positive pre-K impacts disappeared over time as nonattenders caught up. Some have found that low quality preschool (typically in long hours of child care) produced negative impacts that persisted. Other studies find that high quality early care and education in and outside public schools can produce long-term positive gains.  In the context of this larger body of evidence that outcomes vary considerably across programs, the Vanderbilt study makes another contribution: It adds to the evidence that preschool programs cannot simply be assumed to produce the desired long-term results even if there are positive immediate impacts.

Read the rest of NIEER Senior co-Director W. Steven Barnett’s Feb. 4 Preschool Matters Today blog post about the longitudinal evaluation of Tennessee pre-K outcomes here.

D.C. Childcare Workers to Receive One-Time Payments of $10,000 to $14,000

Child care workers in Washington, D.C. will receive supplemental payments of $10,000 or $14,000 after the D.C. Council voted unanimously in favor of the payments on February 1. The funds are derived from the council’s approval of a tax increase on wealthy residents. The D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education will devise a plan to get the money to educators; lead teachers will be paid $14,000 and assistant teachers will be paid $10,000.

The approved legislation is based on recommendations by the D.C. Early Childhood Educator Equitable Compensation Task Force, which was established in 2021 to address inadequate pay for the city’s childcare workforce. In their report released in January, they included recommendations for releasing funds to educators in the short- and long-term. While the payments this year will go directly to educators, the report outlines that in the future, the payments should go to programs, who would then adjust educators’ salaries.

In their report, the task force wrote that “investing in a qualified and stable workforce will benefit the children whose healthy development and learning relies so heavily on these educators – all the more important in the wake of the pandemic.”

Build Back Better Could Immediately Increase Eligibility for Childcare Assistance

A new fact sheet released by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) outlines how the passage of the Build Back Better Act would increase the child care assistance income eligibility threshold in all states, guaranteeing child care assistance for more than 90 percent of working families once fully enacted.

Under current law the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) allows families who earn up to 85 percent of the state median income to access assistance; however, due to limited resources, many states set initial income eligibility far below that threshold. Included in the fact sheet is a side-by-side comparison of current CCDBG eligibility and the initial annual income limit for the first year of the Build Back Better Act’s child care program. The dollar amount of the increase in eligibility ranges from $9,347 in California to $75,786 in New Jersey.


The Foundation for Child Development recently released Getting it Right: The Conversation Guide for Preparing the Next Generation of Implementation Researchers. This conversation guide was developed to help faculty members in institutions of higher education prepare students to conduct implementation research, and serves as a companion piece to the 2020 publication Getting it Right: Using Implementation Research to Improve Outcomes in Early Care and Education.

NIEER Co-Director for Research, Milagros Nores, wrote one chapter in the Getting it Right book: “Equity as a Perspective for Implementation Research in the Early Childhood Field.” Access the conversation guide, a webinar, and summaries of each chapter here.


Research Project Coordinator I

NIEER is seeking a Research Project Coordinator I to work closely with our faculty and staff in research and evaluation. The position coordinates major aspects of preschool education research and evaluation projects. Key duties include managing fieldwork across two to three research projects, communicating effectively with research and project partners, planning and carrying out data collection trainings, collaborating in writing reports and proposals, and collaborating in the development and management of eIRB protocols, survey instruments and other research protocols in conjunction with principal investigators. Required qualifications include:

  • Bachelor’s degree, preferably in early childhood education or in policy or a social science (psychology, anthropology, sociology, human development, education).
  • A minimum of two years experience in early childhood research; a masters degree in a related field may be substituted.

If interested, please apply here. Reach out to mnores@nieer.org with questions.


The Structure of Early Numeracy: Evidence from Multi-Factorial Models

Researchers found counting, number relations and basic arithmetic to be central aspects in various models of factors of early numeracy.  However, “the number and contents of the factors varied considerably across studies,” they wrote.

“Although this review substantiated the critical relevance of certain basic numerical skills, it also highlights a need for future research to evaluate the structure of early numeracy in a more systematic and coordinated way to increase comparability and coherence across studies,” wrote Declan Devlin, Korbinian Moeller, and Francesco Sella of Loughborough University in England. Read the study here.

Predicting Mathematics Achievement from Subdomains of Early Number Competence: Differences by Grade and Achievement Level

Researchers measuring number, number relations, and number operations competence in preschoolers, kindergarteners and first graders found variation in the relative contribution of those subdomains to future mathematics achievement. For example, number operations predicted math achievement for the highest achievers, but no significant relations were found for low achievers.

The study involved 450 children, a third each in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade. It was written by: Brianna L. Devlin of Purdue University in Indiana; Nancy C. Jordan of the  University of Delaware; and Alice Klein of WestEd in California. Read it here.

Transition Practices of Rural Pre-K and Kindergarten Teachers and Their Relations to Children’s Academic and Social Skill

Kindergarten teachers offered more transition practices than pre-kindergarten teachers, according to a study that involved 387 children and 245 teachers in the rural Southeast. Transition practices differed by children served, and although few associations between transition practices and child outcomes were found, they noted an association between data sharing on individual children and higher literacy skills at kindergarten entry.

The study was conducted by: Kylie L. Garber, Tiffany J. Foster, and Lora Cohen-Vogela of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Michael H. Little of North Carolina State University; Mary Bratsch-Hines of the University of Florida; and Margaret R. Burchinal of the University of Virginia. Read the abstract here.

Artificial Intelligence in Early Childhood Education: A Scoping Review

Artificial intelligence (AI) used in early childhood education (ECE) advanced children’s learning and adaptive behaviors, an analysis of 17 studies found. The review of research conducted between 1995 and 2021 found that touchscreen mobile devices used for helping children develop language skills were the most common digital technology used in ECE. Read the analysis here.