Volume 16, Issue 49

Hot Topics

 A Right from the Start

A new white paper from the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College and the Center for Children Initiatives builds the case for a right to preschool as part of the constitutional guarantee of a free public education for all children in the US.

Citing examples of several states where courts have recognized such rights, Establishing Universal Access to Prekindergarten as a Constitutional Right concludes: “Policy commitments alone, without the bedrock of a well-defined right to early education, will continue to shortchange our youngest learners.”

Research has documented the important role quality preschool plays in closing achievement gaps among children in low-income families and their wealthier peers, as well as preparing children for kindergarten and encouraging reading on grade level, high school graduation and higher earnings as an adult. In addition, the report states, many education experts now advocate closer alignment of preschool-grade 12 school systems to improve outcomes for children.

Courts in nine states have considered the issue. North Carolina and South Carolina courts specifically held that children in poverty have a constitutional right to early childhood services, while New Jersey, New York and Alaska courts have held that pre-K services should be provided to remedy each state’s failure to provide adequate educations in high-poverty school districts. A similar case is under appeal in Connecticut.

As part of the landmark New Jersey Supreme Court Abbott v. Burke school funding case, 3- and 4-year-olds in the highest poverty districts were able to receive a high-quality preschool education beginning in the 1991-2000 academic year. State legislators recently expanded the preschool program to selected districts, yet the majority of NJ children still lack access to publicly funded quality preschool.

NIEER research documenting the benefits of preschool was critical to the New Jersey court’s ruling. NIEER has continued to evaluate the Abbott Preschool Program, as well as explore the notion of universal preschool. Our policy brief, The Universal vs Targeted Debate: Should the United States have Preschool for All?recommends a gradual move toward voluntary universal preschool programs with federal matching funds used to encourage states to fund high-quality preschool for all.

“Given evidence that the foundation for literacy and other achievements is laid down in the early years, before children enter school… beginning universal educational services at age 5 or 6 seems arbitrary,” the brief states. “The American public has long supported the right to a free public education. The question is: when should that right begin.”

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New on Preschool Matters Today! Blog

CEELO turns 5, looks to future

One of 22 Comprehensive Centers funded by the U.S. Department to provide technical assistance to State Education Agencies (SEAs), the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) was provided an extended opportunity to continue working with states over the next two years.

As CEELO transitions to the next two years, efforts and projects for greater impact will focus on these major goals:

  • Increasing the capacity of SEAs to lead sustained improvements in early learning policy, Birth-3rdGrade,
  • Increasing leadership and organizational capacity to implement effective programs and policy,
  • Increasing effective use of data to improve programs and instruction,
  • Increasing capacity to produce data on costs and financing to increase access and quality of early childhood programs.

NIEER Activities

NIEER is proud to partner with the Korean Institute of Child Care and Education (KICCE) to publish the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy.

The latest IJCCEP article, The importance of emotional competence and self-regulation from birth: a case for the evidence-based emotional cognitive social early learning approach, reviews research exploring emotional cognitive social early learning (ECSEL) and how early childhood educators can promote emotional competence among children.

IJCCEP publishes original and review papers, technical reports, case studies, conference reports, and government reports, including thematic series. IJCCEP accepts submissions online on a rolling basis in areas including: Assessment & evaluation, Workforce qualifications, Regulations and standards, Financing services, Family engagement, Quality, Integrating education and care, Diversity and social inclusion, and International policy comparisons related to early education


State Preschool Program Evaluations and Research: Research-to-Policy Resources

This Research-to-Policy Resource List from Child Care & Early Education Research Connections provides a comprehensive list of evaluations and research in the Research Connections collection on state preschool programs identified in the 2016 NIEER state preschool yearbook. The criteria used to compile this list are broader than those used in 2004 by Gilliam and Zigler; this list also includes publications that examine program quality, workforce and provider characteristics, estimates of program economic returns, and features of program service delivery.

A Toolkit for State and Local Educational Agencies, Head Start Programs, and the Early Childhood Field

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Head Start Association (NHSA) this week released an online toolkit providing information and resources to guide state and local educational stakeholders in developing coordination agreements and outlining the applicable language on coordination contained in federal law.

Teachers’ Dispositional Mindfulness and the Quality of their Relationships with Children in Head Start Classrooms

A new study published in the Journal of School Psychology examined the relationship between Head Start teachers’ dispositional mindfulness and the quality of their relationships with children. Researchers found that teachers with higher levels of mindfulness had less conflict and greater closeness with the children in their classrooms, overall.

Researchers suggest the quality of teachers’ relationships with children might be improved by mindfulness interventions with preschool teachers, which, in turn, could affect children’s educational outcomes. The potential impact of such interventions could be stronger if efforts are also made to reduce the workplace stress of Head Start teachers.

Sleep and its Relation to Cognition and Behavior in Preschool-aged Children of the General Population: A Systemic Review

The first systematic review of the literature on sleep and its relation to cognition and behavior in preschool-aged children was recently released in the Journal of Sleep Research. An association was found between sleep, behavior and cognition, overall.

The authors, however, point to the need for large longitudinal studies with more specific and objective measures in order to best examine relationships between sleep and child outcomes. These and other issues related to the study of sleep and its relationship to preschool-aged child outcomes are discussed.

Primary Care Interventions for Early Childhood Development: A Systematic Review

A review of recent published evidence on the impact of primary care-based interventions on parenting behaviors and child development outcomes was released this month in the Journal of Pediatrics. Of the 24 interventions evaluated, authors report that two resulted in reductions in developmental delay, four improved cognitive development scores, and six improved behavioral outcomes. Of these, three reported on the costs of the interventions.

Comparisons across studies was limited for a variety of reasons, including the relatively small number of studies that examined different inventions on outcomes measured for children ages 0-3. These and other findings are discussed, as well as implications for further research.

Mapping the Frequency and Severity of Depressive Behaviors in Preschool-Aged Children

The first known data to delineate empirical information about the frequency and severity of behaviors that may be relevant to the development of depression in preschool children was recently released in the Journal of Child Psychiatry & Human Development. These data can be informative to child practitioners to distinguish between developmentally typical and potentially problematic behavior.

These data are essential for reliable assessment in order to intervene in ways that potentially promote improved developmental outcomes for young children. These and other implications for the field are discussed.


Strengthening Family Child Care Quality Peer Learning Group

National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance (ECQA Center) is partnering with BUILD Initiative to provide a peer learning group to support states, territories, and tribes in promoting access to quality family child care.

Teams will explore topics related to engaging and supporting providers, share challenges and solutions, learn about best practices, assess the strengths of their current systems, and develop a plan for strengthening family child care in their area. Applications are due Friday, January 5, 2018. Learn more.


Everyone at NIEER wishes you the best this holiday and into the new year. We appreciate your ongoing interest in our work and look forward to partnering with you to improve access to quality early learning opportunities for all children.

We invite you to share comments, ideas for Hot Topics, resources and Preschool Matters blog posts with us. NIEER Weekly will take a holiday break and return Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.

Best wishes,

Early Education News Roundup

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

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Birth Right, ESSA Toolkit, Happy Holidays