September 3, 2021 – Volume 20, Issue 35


Michigan’s Birth to Kindergarten Certificate Professionalizes Early Learning Workforce

To better equip teachers of young children and professionalize the early childhood workforce, Michigan’s State Board of Education has created a birth-K certificate that incorporates emerging and developmental skills specific to babies and children through kindergarten.

An analysis by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) detailed how Michigan’s state board worked closely with its education department to expand opportunities to improve early educators’ preparation. The birth-K certification addresses whole-child development, including: social-emotional development and the role of play; special education, including working with an individualized education program team; building family and community relationships; and content knowledge and pedagogy. The first candidates for the certificate are expected to graduate in spring 2023.

NASBE’s Winona Hao and Joseph Hedger urged states to leverage the $39 billion in child care relief funds through the federal American Rescue Plan to bolster the early childhood workforce. Read the analysis here.

New America and National Wildlife Federation Encourage Outdoor Learning Opportunities for Young Children

New America’s Early & Elementary Education Policy program and the National Wildlife Federation’s Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) program last week released policy recommendations to help federal and state leaders develop outdoor learning opportunities for young children. They are intended to help leaders promote healthy child development, support the early childhood workforce, and enhance health equity in communities. Read more here.


Assessment of a Comprehensive Early Childhood Education Program and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Midlife

Researchers found that young children enrolled in an early childhood intervention program in the 1980s had a 20% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease at age 37, compared with those with a typical education experience in a large urban school district.

The study was based on data from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, and involved 1,060 mostly black children from high-poverty communities who participated in the Child-Parent Center Education program. It provided school-based educational enrichment and comprehensive family services from preschool through third grade.

“These findings suggest that a comprehensive and established multilevel early childhood program may promote cardiovascular health in midlife, which is associated with long-term risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the US,” the authors wrote.

The study was written by Arthur Reynolds, Suh-Ruu Ou and Lauren Eales of the University of Minnesota; Christina F. Mondi of Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts, and Alison Giovanelli of the University of California, San Francisco. Read it here.

Effects of North Carolina’s Pre-Kindergarten Program at the End of Kindergarten: Contributions of School-Wide Quality

High quality in elementary schools enhanced the academic advantages provided by North Carolina’s pre-K program, based on a study that followed children through kindergarten. For children who attended elementary schools with average quality, “no reliable effects of NC Pre-K participation” were found, the authors wrote.

The study involved 532 children, half of whom participated in the state’s pre-K program during the 2014–2015 school year and were in kindergarten for the 2015–2016 school year.

Favorable effect of the pre-K program on language skills was only found in schools rated above average on academic proficiency, while a positive effect on working memory skills was found only in schools that scored above-average on academic growth, the researchers wrote. They found no reliable effects of the pre-K program on literacy or mathematics.

The study was written by Robert C. Carr and Irina L. Mokrova of Duke University and Ellen S. Peisner-Feinberg and Rachel Kaplan of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Read the study here.

Early Childhood Special Education Teachers’ Job Burnout and Psychological Stress

An online survey of 121 early childhood special education teachers found that work-related demands were linked to job burnout and stress, but that having a sense of school community and job commitment to the job had the opposite effect. The study was written by Hyun-Joo Jeon, Lindsay Diamond, and Christina McCartney of the University of Nevada and Kyong-Ah Kwon of the University of Oklahoma. Read the abstract here.

Teacher-report of Where Preschool-Aged Children Play and are Physically Active in Indoor and Outdoor Learning Centers

Preschool children tended to spend free-choice time indoors in dramatic play areas, while outdoors, they sought physical activity in grassy areas and paved areas where balls and other objects were available, a study reported.

Researchers sought to identify which preschool learning centers, both indoors and outside, were available, used by children, and promoted physical activity.

The study was conducted by Kimberly A. Clevenger of the National Cancer Institute in Maryland and Karin A. Pfeiffer of Michigan State University. Read the abstract here.

Variability in Preschool CLASS Scores and Children’s School Readiness

Assessing preschool child-teacher interactions over a single school day, researchers using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) found that classroom observations at four intervals showed little variability in quality.

CLASS is a widely used measure for assessing emotional support, classroom organization and instruction support in teacher-child interactions. The researchers highlighted the value of examining CLASS scores at individual intervals, rather than the usual practice of taking an average of the interval scores. For example, they noted “variability may be a more robust indicator of quality in the domain of Classroom Organization than the mean when considering children’s growth in literacy.”

The study, involving 684 children across 180 preschool classrooms in 127 schools, found that mean classroom organization was positively related to math, while variability in classroom organization was negatively related to literacy. Classroom quality was observed by CLASS-certified research assistants.

The study was conducted by: Jennifer K. Finders, Robert J. Duncan, David J. Purpura, James Elicker, and Sara A. Schmitt of Purdue University in Indiana; and Adassa Budrevich of Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families. Read it here.


Program Specialist, Denver Preschool Program

Associate Director of Early Learning Policy, Education Trust–West

Director, Center for Child Development at Kansas State University