June 11, 2021 – Volume 20, Issue 23



New Guide Offers School Districts Advice on Using Federal Funds to Bolster Early Childhood Education

A new guide explains how school districts can use federal funds provided through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to bolster early childhood education. The guide also applies to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program (ESSER) funded through recent COVID-19 packages.

Young children were seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic: ECE, pre-K and kindergarten programs experienced striking declines in enrollment.

“Young children not only missed out on learning opportunities, many experienced instability and trauma that will impact their development,” the authors wrote. “Schools should act to address these needs by investing in supports for young children — as well as their families, teachers, and other professionals.”

Using Every Student Succeeds Act Funds for Early Childhoodwas created by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, EducationCounsel, the Erikson Institute, Start Early, and Foresight Law + Policy. Read it here.




Unification of Virginia’s Early Childhood System and the Impact on ARPA Planning: “We’re at a change point in Virginia”

Leaders in Virginia’s early childhood education efforts discussed efforts to use provisions in the federal American Rescue Plan Act to strengthen the state’s birth to five system. Virginia Department of Education Early Childhood Director Erin Carroll and Becca Ullrich, coordinator for early childhood policy and planning, were interviewed by NIEER Senior Research Fellow Lori Connors-Tadros and Kathy Stohr, project manager of Pritzker Children’s Initiative and member of the National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers. Read the Q&A here.


Building for the Future of Maryland’s Young Children

Steven Hicks, Maryland’s assistant superintendent for the division of Early Childhood Development, and Jennifer Nizer, director of the state’s Office of Child Care, discussed plans for using federal funds to stabilize and strengthen the state’s early care and education system in the wake of the pandemic. “Our goal is get at least half of the funds directly to programs by the end December 2021 and to make it as easy as possible to stabilize programs to meet operational costs and address under-enrollment that may have resulted from the capacity restrictions and limited family involvement in child care due to the safety measures we put in place during COVID,” Hicks said. Read the Q&A here.




The Effect of Mobile and Information Technologies on the Language Development Design of Preschool Children: A Meta-Analysis and Meta-Synthesis Study

Preschool teachers’ use of mobile and information technologies supported language development across different cultures, according to results of a mixed-method study that combined a meta-analysis and a meta-synthesis of research conducted in various countries.

The researchers examined a total of 37 studies spanning nearly 20 years, finding “mobile and IT supported education had a high positive effect on the language development of preschool children in different cultures,” they wrote.

More experienced teachers were less likely to use technology. The researchers suggested educators receive support and have experience in the use of digital media. “It is necessary to arrange trainings for adults to use mobile and IT by direct interaction and indirect planning, and to teach correct information about how to support children’s language and other development in these trainings,” wrote Duygu Mavi and Filiz Erbay of Near East University in Turkey. Read the study here.


A Scoping Review of the Knowledge Base, Landscape, and Trends in Leadership Literature in Early Intervention, Early Childhood, and Early Childhood Special Education

Little research exists on the impact of leadership in early childhood education, early intervention and early childhood special education, a review of literature confirmed. Sarah Movahedazarhouligh of the University of North Carolina Wilmington reviewed 1,416 articles written between 2000 and 2018, 106 of which met the criteria for her research. Read the abstract here.


Preschool Children, Robots, and Computational Thinking: A Systematic Review

Computational thinking is emerging as an ability children need to develop, according to researchers investigating the role of educational robots in that pursuit. Computational thinking (CT) involves skills “to formulate, model and solve problems using strategies and ideas from computer science,” they wrote.

The researchers reviewed 15 empirical studies on the use of educational robots (ER) to promote computational thinking in preschoolers. The studies all used commercial robots, which had limited ability to adjust for children’s cognitive level, they noted.

“Our main objective was to conduct a broad exploration and analysis of the reported experiences with ER to promote CT in early childhood and examine existing gaps,” wrote Ewelina Bakala, Anaclara Gerosa and Gonzalo Tejera of the University of the Republic in Uruguay, and Juan Pablo Hourcade of The University of Iowa. Read the study here.


Latent Growth Trajectories of Peer Context Behavior Problems across Preschool, Kindergarten and First Grade

First grade classes with greater peer context behavior problems tended to have lower reading and math skills, poorer student-teacher relationships, and greater parent-observed behavior problems at the end of the school year, researchers found.

The study involved a nationally representative sample of 3,827 low-income children in the U.S., from the start of preschool through first grade. The researchers identified the transition to formal school “as a critical period in the development of peer context behavior for some—but not all—children.” They suggested that targeted academic and social-emotional support provided before first grade could benefit children with peer context behavior problems.

The study was conducted by Emily M. Weiss, Paul A. McDermott, Michael J. Rovine, and Jimin Oh of the University of Pennsylvania. Read the abstract here.


Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity Is Positively Related to Executive Function for Children with Low Aerobic Fitness

Moderate to vigorous physical activity (PA) improved the executive function (EF) of preschool children with low aerobic fitness, but had no bearing on those with high aerobic fitness, according to researchers. Changes in executive function between fall and spring found that sedentary to light activity had a positive impact in children with high aerobic fitness, but was unrelated to executive function in children with low aerobic fitness.

The study involved 81 children ages 3 to 5 from seven center-based pre-K programs. Results “point to a unique role that fitness and PA play in the development of early cognitive skills,” wrote Derek R. Becker of Western Carolina University and Patrick Abi Nader of the University of Québec at Rimouski in Canada. They said the results “highlight the need to provide opportunities for children to spend time in both indoor and outdoor free play, but also suggest encouraging PA that promotes aerobic fitness could aid in the development of EF”. Read the study here.





The U.S. Department of Education has released two notices inviting applications (NIAs) for Mid-Phase and Expansion-Phase EIR projects. The EIR program provides funding to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students; and rigorously evaluate such innovations. The deadline for Notice of Intent to Apply is June 28, 2021 and deadline for Transmittal of Applications is July 7, 2021. More information regarding the FY 2021 EIR Competition is available at the program website.

●     Social Sciences / Humanities Research Associate III, University of Texas

●     Media Relations Specialist, University of Texas

●     Senior Research and Policy, The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment

●     Consultant to Support the Child Care and Early Education Policy Research Consortium, ICF

Research Associate, Institute of Human Development and Social Change




June 17 Webinar on Lessons from New Jersey’s Abbott Preschool: Building a National System of High Quality Early Education

An expert panel will discuss the latest findings from NIEER’s longitudinal study of the high-quality Abbott Preschool Program.

In the landmark Abbott v. Burke school funding case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the state to provide preschool education for 3- and 4-year-olds in 31 urban districts. A coalition of advocates worked to ensure that New Jersey transformed a patchwork of private and public programs into a highly effective and unified mixed delivery system with uniform high standards.

NIEER’s latest study of the Abbott Preschool Program (APPLES-10) finds that it has positive outcomes through at least grade 10 with larger achievement gains for children who started at age 3. As President Biden calls for free, universal preschool across the country, the Abbott Preschool Program can be a national model.

Join Steve Barnett of NIEER, Cecilia Zalkind of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, David Sciarra of Education Law Center, and Miriam Calderon of the U.S. Department of Education for a discussion of the study and what it would take to replicate New Jersey’s model across the country. The webinar is sponsored by Education Law Center and NIEERRegister here for the 2 p.m. EDT webinar on June 17.