May 14, 2021 – Volume 20, Issue 19


How Can Cities Find Funding and Improve the Quality of Their Pre-K Programs?

GG Weisenfeld, senior early childhood education policy specialist at NIEER, co-authored a new CityHealth article that describes two tools cities can use now to expand pre-K access and improve its quality.

Weisenfeld and Catherine D. Patterson, co-executive director of CityHealth, provided examples of pre-K funding techniques cities have used successfully to expand access. The article contains a link to 11 funding strategies that NIEER and CityHealth identified.

To ensure the quality of a city’s pre-K program, NIEER has developed a self-assessment framework that “translates evidence and best practices into tools to assess and provide actionable steps to improve the implementation of early learning programs.”

The Biden administration’s proposal to spend $200 billion on expanding pre-K access to all 3- and 4-year-olds “builds on momentum generated by cities and states across America,” they wrote. In CityHealth’s 2020 policy assessment, 33 of 40 cities received a policy medal for their high-quality, accessible pre-K programs.

The article encourages cities to consider a wide range of funding strategies to expand pre-K programs and to use the self-assessment framework to improve quality. Read the article here.

Foundation For Child Development Young Scholars Program

Early-career researchers are invited to apply to the Foundation for Child Development’s Young Scholars Program. The YSP supports policy- and practice-relevant research that “examines the preparation, competency, compensation, well-being, and ongoing professional learning of the early care and education (ECE) workforce.”

Committed to diversity, the foundation encourages applicants who are of color, first-generation college graduates, culturally and linguistically diverse, and from low-income communities and other underrepresented groups. It also seeks applicants representing “a variety of disciplines and methodological approaches.”

Eligible researchers must have received their doctoral degrees between Jan. 1, 2012 and June 30, 2020. Physician applicants must have received their M.D. degrees between Jan. 1, 2009 and June 30, 2020.

View the YSP FAQs here. Download the complete 2022 YSP guidelines here. Questions may be submitted to


NIEER Welcomes Erin Harmeyer and Tracy Jost

NIEER is pleased to welcome two new colleagues who start Monday: Erin Harmeyer is joining as an assistant research professor and Tracy Jost as an early childhood education policy specialist.

Harmeyer will work primarily on field research projects while Jost’s focus is on the various landscape analyses (e.g. Yearbook, CityHealth medals) and other policy-related and technical assistance projects.

Harmeyer’s research interests include family childcare quality, caregiver-child interactions, and the academic readiness skills of low-income children. Prior to joining NIEER, she taught second and fifth grade in the Kansas City, Missouri school district, and was most recently an assistant professor of professional practice in the child and family studies program at Louisiana State University. Harmeyer earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and a Ph.D. in human development and family science from the University of Missouri.

Jost worked as a NIEER policy advisor on issues related to pre-K and effective state offices of early learning. She was a senior policy advisor to the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes and co-led its leadership academy. Jost previously worked at the Maryland State Department of Education overseeing pre-K expansion grants and Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge initiatives. For 15 years, she has owned and operated an accredited early learning center serving children ages six weeks to 12 years. Jost holds a master’s degree and certificate of advanced study in early childhood education with an emphasis on public policy.

NIEER’s Milagros Nores Helps Introduce Families as Partners

Milagros Nores, NIEER’s co-director for research, joined the Newark Trust for Education to discuss Families as Partners, a paper released this week for “anyone with an interest or a stake in early learning in Newark” or similar cities. The paper aims to promote “a better understanding of the early childhood ecosystem as a whole: its strengths, its diversity, potential gaps and opportunities, and how the various parts work together in support of the whole.” Read it here.


Sustained Benefits of s Preschool Home Visiting Program: Child Outcomes in Fifth Grade

Prekindergarteners from low-income families whose parents received training at home to help their children transition to kindergarten received learning benefits that lasted throughout elementary school, a study found.

Researchers tracked 200 Pennsylvania children starting when they attended Head Start programs through fifth grade. Half the children’s primary caregivers received an intervention of 16 weeks of home visits. The goal of the Research-based Developmentally Informed Parent program (REDI-P) was “to increase the sustained benefits of enriched preschool programming by engaging parents and strengthening home learning support.”

REDI-P had lasting positive effects on children’s reading skills, academic motivation, and learning engagement, as well as parent academic expectations and parenting stress, according to the study. “At fifth grade, significant main effects for intervention were sustained,” researchers wrote.

The study was conducted by Karen L. Bierman, Brenda S. Heinrichs, and Janet A. Welsh of The Pennsylvania State University, and Robert L. Nix of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Read it here.

Elementary Teachers’ Knowledge of Foundational Literacy Skills: A Critical Piece of the Puzzle in the Science of Reading

The best training programs for increasing elementary educators’ knowledge of reading instruction were those that allowed them to apply information and skills they learned under expert guidance, according to researchers who reviewed 20 empirical studies.

The review examining the impact of preparation programs on elementary teachers’ knowledge of the science of reading was conducted by Alida K. Hudson, Karol A. Moore, Bing Han, Poh Wee Koh, Emily Binks‐Cantrell and R. Malatesha Joshi of Texas A&M University. Read the abstract here.

Preschool Teacher-Child Relationships and Children’s Expressive Vocabulary Skills: The Potential Mediating Role of Profiles of Children’s Engagement in the Classroom

A study categorizing preschoolers’ patterns of engagement and examining links to expressive vocabulary development found that a close teacher-child relationship was positively associated with expressive vocabulary development for engaged children.

The majority of the 708 participants, however, demonstrated below-average engagement with teachers, classmates and tasks, but were not disruptive in the classroom. Children in the low-engagement category “may have had less opportunities than more positively engaged children to practice and develop expressive vocabulary skills,” the researchers wrote.

“This study shows how important it is for teachers to be aware of the impact of the affective relationships they share with children and to invest as much time and effort in these relationships as possible,” concluded Natalia M. Rojas and Rachel M. Abenavoli of New York University. Read the study here.

Early Childhood Neglect among 3- to 6-Year-Old Children in China: A Meta-Analysis

Researchers reviewed data from 21 studies involving more than 31,000 children ages 3 to 6 in China and found a high prevalence of early childhood neglect. “Improved child policies and prevention programs tailored to preschool children are needed to protect the well-being of younger children,” concluded Huiping Zhang and Yang Wang of Renmin University of China, and Mengmeng Ji of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Read the abstract here.

Systemwide Quality Improvement in Early Childhood Education: Evidence from Louisiana

The quality of subsidized child care, Head Start and state prekindergarten in Louisiana improved overall and across communities between 2016 and 2019, an analysis of statewide data found. Gaps in quality across sectors also diminished over the four years, researchers reported.

Data from Quality Rating and Improvement Systems found the proportion of child care programs meeting the proficiency standard increased from 40% to 73% over that period. The proficiency gap between child care and pre-K narrowed by more than half, according to the study. Researchers noted that at-risk communities only showed improvement beginning in the third year, which may indicate they need more targeted supports to overcome barriers.

Researchers Daphna Bassok of the University of Virginia, Preston Magouirk of Common App, and Anna J. Markowitz of the University of California, Los Angeles said the study shows how investments in the quality of publicly funded early childhood education can be measured. Read it here.