January 22, 2021 – Volume 20, Issue 3


Corona Pandemic in the United States Shapes New Normal for Young Children and Their Families

NIEER researchers used a nationwide survey of 1,000 parents of preschoolers, along with other strategies, to explore the overwhelming impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on early childhood education. “Our findings suggest that the pandemic has highlighted already existing problems in the fragmented ECE system,” authors Steven Barnett, Rolf Grafwallner and Georgenne G. Weisenfeld wrote.

The research was designed “to inform a rethinking and transformation of early education systems that might lead to new ways of defining early learning,” they wrote. The study examined the ECE experiences of young children and their parents in the 50 states and D,C. from the spring through fall of 2020, and the pandemic’s effect on policy.

The researchers outlined some silver linings: “Pandemic-related problems may give rise to greater support for better integrated systems and consolidation in the public sector but might also lead to support for an expanded private sector role,” they wrote. Before the pandemic, about 60% of young children attended a preschool classroom. That percentage fell to 8% by May. With so many children at home during the pandemic, ECE programs may have formed stronger partnerships with parents.

“Describing/measuring these in ways that support replication and evaluation will be a key task,” the authors suggested. Read the article in its entirety here.


Research for Action Launches ECE Lead Teacher Certification Survey

Research for Action, an independent nonprofit, is asking early childhood lead teachers, program administrators, parents/guardians of children age 8 and under, policymakers, and ECE program directors/deans at universities to take an online national survey. 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 they are accredited or licensed. Programs could be in a public or private school, child care center, or a home.

The study by Research for Action and 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.



New Jersey’s Digital Divide in Districts with State-Funded Pre-K

Can the youngest learners in New Jersey’s lowest income school districts access remote learning during the pandemic?

Kate Hodges, NIEER’s policy research project coordinator, writes in a new article for Preschool Matters Today that students enrolled in state-funded pre-K programs don’t have the technology for remote learning.

Ninety-two percent of these low-income school districts are providing remote pre-K instruction, but half of these districts report having students who don’t have access to a device, the internet, or both, writes Hodges. Click here to read the article.



State Early Learning and Development Standards: A Unified Curriculum Framework for All Young Children

In a new study, Mary Beth Bruder and Kelly E. Ferreira of the University of Connecticut reviewed early learning and development standards (ELDS) in the U.S. to determine whether they provided guidance for children with developmental delays. ELDS outlines “the knowledge, skills, and dispositions young children should demonstrate before kindergarten,” they wrote. While 89% of state ELDS referred to young children with developmental delays, “statements and guidance describing specific accommodations for this population were not prevalent,” they found. The study discusses implications for both policy and practice.


Supporting Children’s Healthy Development during Mealtime in Early Childhood Settings

Early childhood education settings that serve meals family-style were more likely to use responsive feeding practices to promote healthy eating by young children, according to a new study. The research examined ECE mealtimes to determine the relationship between high-quality teaching practices and responsive feeding practices used to encourage children to try new foods and self-regulate food intake.

Researchers found that teachers’ education and salary were associated with high-quality teaching practices. They suggested the study highlights “the importance of building better interdisciplinary partnerships to support teachers during mealtimes and to improve ECE mealtime practices in order to help promote optimal outcomes for children in all areas of development.” Teachers, they noted, were more often observed using role modeling than supporting eating self-regulation.

The study was conducted by Adrien D. Malek-Lasater, Kyong-Ah Kwon, Diane M. Horm, Susan B. Sisson, and Sherri L. Castle of the University of Oklahoma, and Dipti A. Dev of the University of Nebraska.


Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms in Early Childhood Education Teachers: Relations to Professional Well-Being and Absenteeism

Morgan Peele and Sharon Wolf of the University of Pennsylvania investigated “how early childhood education teachers’ (N = 444) depressive and anxiety symptoms predicted their professional well-being outcomes and absenteeism over the course of one school year in Ghana”. They found that “higher anxiety and depressive symptoms predicted lower job motivation and job satisfaction and higher levels of emotional exhaustion at the end of the school year”. They further report that “increased depressive symptoms were further associated with more days absent over the course of the school year.” They suggest that their “findings point to the importance of considering teachers’ mental health for early educational quality”.


Is Skill Type the Key to the PreK Fadeout Puzzle? Differential Associations between Enrollment in PreK and Constrained and Unconstrained Skills across Kindergarten

Meghan McCormick (MDRC), Christina Weiland (University of Michigan), JoAnn Hsueh (MDRC), Mirjana Pralica (MDRC), Amanda K. Weissman (University of Michigan), Lillie Moffett (University of Michigan), Catherine Snow (Harvard), and Jason Sachs (Boston Public Schools) examined “whether associations between enrollment in public and non‐public PreK and children’s (N = 508; Mage = 5.60 years in fall of kindergarten) math and language and literacy outcomes were more likely to be sustained through the spring of kindergarten for unconstrained versus constrained skills.”

They found that “associations between public PreK and language, literacy, and math outcomes were more strongly sustained through the spring of kindergarten for unconstrained skills, relative to constrained skills. Only associations between non‐public PreK and unconstrained language skills were sustained through the spring of kindergarten. Associations in the fall of kindergarten differed by family income and dual language learner (DLL) status but there was no subgroup variation by the spring of kindergarten.” The study authors discuss the implications of their research for both practice and policy.


A Randomized Controlled Trial of an Educational App to Improve Preschoolers’ Emergent Literacy Skills

David H. Arnold, Mamatha Chary, Shannon L. Gair, Abigail F. Helm, and Rachel Herman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst examined the impact of the “Khan Academy Kids (Khan Kids) app with children from families with low incomes to “evaluate the effects of home use of the app on 4- and 5-year-olds’ emergent literacy skills”. They found that “children who used this app showed increases in their emergent literacy skills compared to children provided with age-appropriate apps not targeting these skills.” They suggest that “educational apps could provide a practical tool for fostering academic success and narrowing the SES opportunity gap.”



February 4, 2021, 4:00 pm EST, Wanted: New Leadership for Young Learners, CAYL Catalyst – Webinar Series, Episode #1. Register here.



Assistant Teaching Professor, Early Learning Programs, University of Washington

Director of Early Childhood Policy & Practice, The Prichard Committee

Research Assistant Professor, UVA- School of Education and Human Development, Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning

Director of Research for the Center on the Ecology of Early Development (CEED), Boston University, Wheelock College of Education and Human Development

Director of Practice for Center on the Ecology of Early Development (CEED), Boston University, Wheelock College of Education and Human Development

Administrative Coordinator for Center on the Ecology of Early Development (CEED), Boston University, Wheelock College of Education and Human Development