Volume 16, Issue 6

Hot Topics

Weighing In on Wages

Our recent State(s) of Head Start report revealed not only that Head Start teachers and assistants are abysmally paid on average, but that the salary gap between Head Start teachers and public school teachers differs greatly from state to state. Our research found Head Start teachers on average earn almost $24,000 less than K-12 teachers within the same state and that the gap ranges from $10,000 to $40,000. Pay gaps hinder hiring and retaining the best teachers, with turnover and demoralization diminishing the quality of a child’s early learning experience.

Two recent studies renew calls for improving compensation for early childhood educators and recommend policies to reach that goal.

In “The Best Teachers for Our Littlest Learners?” Bellwether Education Partners notes that while raising education requirements for Head Start teachers has resulted in nearly 75 percent holding BA or higher, salaries remain incredibly low. “In 20 states, a Head Start teacher with a bachelor’s degree makes less money today than they would have in 2007, taking into account inflation,” the report states.

Head Start staff salaries are not set by federal policy so individual programs could choose to increase teacher salaries, the report notes. “But doing so without increased funding would, in most cases, require serving fewer children—something most programs are not willing to do.”

A separate paper by the Center for American Progress shows the compensation problem extends beyond Head Start with child care workers and preschool teachers generally earning less than $30,000 per year on average and less likely to have benefits than workers in other fields. (See Resources below)

“Research consistently shows that high-quality early childhood programs depend on a professional, well-compensated, and skilled workforce, but early childhood educators remain underpaid and undervalued in the current U.S. early childhood education system,” according to the report.

“States have made laudable efforts over the past decade to professionalize the early childhood field with limited resources,” the report states. “However, these efforts have generally been piecemeal—applying only to particular teachers in particular programs—or have lacked robust funding sources to meet the workforce’s needs… In addition to increasing funding levels, the federal government must craft comprehensive policies to ensure that early childhood workers receive adequate compensation, benefits, and support for their professional growth—no matter where they work or who they serve.”

With the new administration’s team in place, the time has come to address these and other issues shaping the future for our littlest learners.

NIEER Activities


NIEER has received a $1.8 million grant from the William Penn Foundation to conduct a three-year evaluation of Philadelphia’s preschool program and provide the City with feedback on program design and implementation, as well as an analysis of impacts on children’s learning and development. The multi-site study will employ a combination of methods to assess PHLpreK program quality to provide guidance for building an excellent program that benefits local families and serves as a model for other programs throughout the nation. PI: Steven Barnett & Milagros Nores.

The evaluation is designed to be part of a continuous improvement process that will inform classroom practices, systems to support pre-K providers, and improve kindergarten readiness. The evaluation will also include a review of the economic impacts of PHLpreK and the cost-effectiveness of the program in comparison with other interventions for young children. See City of Philadelphia press release.

CEELO Update

Professional Development Tools to Improve the Quality of Infant and Toddler Care: A Review of the Literature

CEELO this week shared a comprehensive literature review by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation of empirical studies, reviews, and meta-analyses conducted within the past 10 years and websites of leading organizations to identify the most promising methods and practices for improving caregiver interactions with young children.


Making Math Count More for Young Latino Children

A new report from the Child Trends Hispanic Institute raises awareness of the need to foster math skills in young Latino children, and offers ways to do so.

Latinos now account for 1 out of every 4 kindergartners in the country; their early education is of great importance for them personally, and also has major implications for the future U.S. economy. Making Math Count More for Young Latino Children outlines the disparity in early math skills between Latino and white children.

Parent Engagement Practices Improve Outcomes for Preschool Children

Children begin learning at home before they ever reach the classroom, but many families face barriers to providing high-quality early educational opportunities. A new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study outlines a number of research-based strategies to bolster parent engagement in ways that improve child outcomes.

Supporting parents’ efforts to help their children develop during the preschool years improves a child’s school readiness, reduces behavior problems, enhances social skills, and promotes academic success, the report states.

Policies to Support Early Education Workforce

Despite the importance of early childhood educators—to the economy, parents, and young children—low wages, minimal benefits, and a lack of professional supports are commonplace. A new paper published by the Center for American Progress urges adoption of federal policies to help states “to implement coordinated, integrated policies to promote a diverse early childhood workforce that is skilled, supported, and adequately compensated.”

State Early Care and Education Updates 2016

The National Women’s Law Center recently issued a state-by-state report summarizing state actions affecting preschool programs in 2016. Several states increased funding for preschool, changed policy to comply with the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), or took other steps to expand or improve early care and education opportunities for children and families, the report states.

Yet few states made the significant new investments necessary to ensure the health and safety of children in child care, improve the quality of care, and make it easier for families to access and retain child care assistance, the report concludes. Several states made cuts that will further limit families’ access to affordable, high-quality early care and education.

The Economic Returns to Early Childhood Education

Assessing the value of preschool can involve comparing program costs with economic benefits produced, such as fewer required special education services, improved high school graduation rates, higher earnings and less criminal activity in adulthood.

The Future of Children journal article by Lynn A. Karoly identifies challenges in measuring economic returns from preschool, summarizes the range of estimates from various benefit-cost analyses and methodological differences and explores implications for using benefit-cost analysis to make policy decisions about preschool education.



NIEER is seeking a Research Professor/Co-Director to assume major leadership responsibilities for the development and management of research, development of assessments including assessments of practice, and the provision of professional development and technical assistance relating to systems design and large-scale implementation of early learning initiatives.

To apply, please use the link provided by Rutgers. Applicants are expected to provide a cover letter, CV, and contact information for three references.

Alaska Department of Education and Early Development

Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), Division of Teaching and Learning Support is seeking an Education Specialist II to join our Early Learning team. This position, under the direction of the Early Learning Administrator, plans, develops and maintains early learning programs located within DEED. The position collaboratively manages programs within the early learning component to ensure program alignment with the State of Alaska Early Learning Guidelines and federal requirements. To apply, click here.


“Preparing for the Next Phase of Advocacy: Child Care under Trump
Child Care Advocacy Webinar
Date: February 15, 2017 2 p.m. EST

The National Women’s Law Center is offering an analysis of the new administration’s proposed child care plan, along with an alternative child care strategy during a free webinar. To join the webinar, register TODAY (February 10, 2017).

Annual IDRA La Semana del Niño Parent Institute
Date: April 27, 2017
Whitley Theological Center, San Antonio

Bilingual Parent Institute designed for families, community groups, educators and administrators.
The Intercultural Development Research Association is an independent private non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring educational opportunity for every child. IDRA strengthens and transforms public education by providing dynamic training; useful research, evaluation, and frameworks for action; timely policy analyses; and innovative materials and programs. Register here.

Early Education in the News

ICYMI: Read this week’s key stories on early childhood education issues.

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Weigh In on Wages, PHLpreK and Making Math Count