June 4, 2021 – Volume 20, Issue 22

Factors associated with effective policy implementation in four state offices of early childhood education are investigated in an extensive new report from NIEER. The review examined offices in Alabama, Michigan, New Jersey and West Virginia. Findings could influence and improve the effectiveness of state agencies in executing sound, research-based policies for children and families.
Among the report’s twelve key findings are the importance of having an office of early childhood in an elevated position in state government, and the support of the governor. Those factors provide greater visibility and access to decision makers.
Thur., June 17 at, 2 PM EDT
Two decades ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court in the landmark Abbott v. Burke school funding case ordered the State to provide preschool education for three- and four-year-olds in 31 urban districts segregated by poverty and race. The ruling embraced the research showing high quality preschool reduces the opportunity gap between affluent and low-income students and produces life-long benefits.
A coalition of advocates worked to ensure that New Jersey created a pre-K program with high standards that transformed a patchwork of private and public programs into a highly effective and unified mixed delivery system. Through years of tireless work on many fronts, the “Abbott Preschool Program” has emerged as a national model.
In the latest release of a longitudinal study by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), the Abbott Preschool continues to demonstrate the long-term positive outcomes, now through grade 10, of children in the program for two years. These outcomes include persistent gains in academic achievement, reduction in student grade retention, and decrease in special education placement. As President Biden calls for free, universal preschool across the country, New Jersey’s high quality preschool program can be a national model for the delivery of effective early education.
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, interviewed the Louisiana’s deputy assistant superintendent of early childhood strategy about the state’s efforts for a high-quality and equitable birth-to-five system. Through its federal Preschool Development Birth to Five Grant (PDG B-5), Louisiana has a strong strategic framework to guide decisions about the use of new federal funds. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Taylor Dunn described the state’s priorities and new ideas in the interview. Read it here.
A study that monitored participants for cardiovascular risk factors from childhood well into adulthood found a link between elevated systolic blood pressure, high serum total cholesterol, and obesity over years and cognitive performance problems in their 30s and 40s.
The longitudinal study began in 1980, with 3,596 children ages 3 to 18. Participants’ blood pressure, serum lipids and body mass index were repeatedly assessed over the 31 years, according to the study. Cognitive testing was performed on 2,026 participants at ages 34 to 49.
“Longitudinal elevated systolic blood pressure, high serum total cholesterol, and obesity from childhood to midlife were inversely associated with midlife cognitive performance,” the Finnish researchers wrote. “The higher the number of cardiovascular risk factors, the worse was the observed cognitive performance,” they noted.
The research team, which included medical doctors, suggested early intervention on cardiovascular risk factors could address cognitive health in later life. “Given the current lack of cure for the major causes of dementia, delaying the onset of clinical cognitive deficits should be in the key focus of cognitive health promotion,” they wrote. Read the study here.
Preschoolers who participated in a 10-week physical activity program at their childcare centers significantly improved at running, jumping, hopping, as well as object control skills, and they maintained those improvements three months later, researchers found.
The study involved 66 3- and 4-year-olds from four early childhood education centers in New Zealand. Forty-six of the children took part in the weekly Jumping Beans program. Instructors also worked with teachers to improve their ability to support and coach children’s fundamental movement skills, the study said.
“Children who undertook PA classes increased their locomotor abilities by an average of 20 percentile rankings and two age-equivalent years, and object control skills by 20 percentile rankings and one age-equivalent year,” they wrote.
The study was conducted by Ajmol Ali, Tara McLaughlin, Owen Mugridge, Cathryn Conlon, and Linda Clarke of Massey University, and Claire McLachlan of the University of Waikato, all in New Zealand. Read the study here.
Higher levels of screen use at age 2 was associated with less time reading books at 36 months. That, in turn, was linked to more time in front of screens at age 5, according to a study published this month in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Findings from this study support the need for practitioners, child care professionals, and educators to encourage families to engage in healthy use of screen devices (ie, limited duration) and to encourage device-free time to establish early reading habits,” the researchers wrote.
The study involved 2,440 mothers and children in Calgary, Canada. Mothers reported their children’s screen use and reading activities at 24, 36, and 60 months of age.
A 10-minute decrease in daily reading at 36 months translated to a 25-minute increase in weekly screen use at age 5, the researchers reported. There is a reciprocal process: “screen use negatively influences reading activities and then lowered reading activities lead to greater screen use,” they wrote.
The research was conducted by: Brae Anne McArthur, Sheila McDonald, Sheri Madigan and Suzanne Tough of the University of Calgary; and Dillon Browne of the University of Waterloo, also in Canada. The study and a 4-minute video explaining the research are available here.
Australian researchers found preschool children’s physical activity (PA) had positive impacts on their social-emotional development. “These findings highlight the potential importance of PA, especially moderate-intensity play-based PA,” they wrote. The study, involving 651 children ages 2 to 4, was conducted by Hayley E. Christian, Leanne Lester, Mohamed K. Al Marzooqi, Stewart G. Trost, and Alana Papageorgiou. Read the abstract here.