Volume 16, Issue 5

Hot Topics

Down to Seeds and STEM

The newly released comprehensive report, STEM Starts Early: Grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in early childhood, provides educators and advocates a new reason to mobilize.

Debunking the notion that children in preschool are too young to grasp critical thinking skills, New America and Joan Ganz Cooney Center authors assert that “…just as the industrial revolution made it necessary for all children to learn to read, the technology revolution has made it critical for all children to understand STEM.”

“Whether it is gardening, building forts, stacking blocks, playing at the water table, or lining up by height in the classroom, children demonstrate a clear readiness to engage in STEM learning early in life,” the report states. “And research from several disciplines is converging to show the importance of a new national commitment to early learning generally.”

NIEER has long supported STEM early education for all young children, including dual language learners, through SciMath-DLL workshops, professional learning communities and individualized reflective coaching, as well as curriculum. Key contributors have included Alissa Lange, Kimberly Brenneman, Ellen Frede, Alex Figueras-Daniel, Judi Stevenson-Garcia, and Jorie Quinn.

The new report finds that parents and teachers are enthusiastic but need help feeling more capable sharing STEM concepts, technology can help connect school, home and other learning environments such as libraries and museums, researchers and policymakers need to communicate with each other and teachers to encourage quality STEM for young learners and strategic communications are needed to help the wider public understand how young children learn and why STEM is a natural fit.

“To effectively seed STEM development for young children, we must mobilize leaders from every pivotal sector—research, practice, industry, philanthropy, and policy—to work together,” the report concludes.

New on Preschool Matters…Today!

Sowing the Seeds for Successful STEM Learning in Early Childhood

Researchers and educators agree: Children demonstrate a clear readiness to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning early in life. And, just as with language and literacy, STEM education should start early in order to maximize its benefits and effectiveness.

NIEER Activities

Teacher Time Birth to Five 

NIEER Assistant Research Professor Alex Figueras-Daniel is featured in a series of live webcasts by the National Center on Quality Training and Learning focused on various aspects of quality early education aimed at Head Start programs but applicable to others. Watch LIVE at 3 pm EST Fridays or register here. 

CEELO Update

Teacher Talent Untapped: Multilingual Paraprofessionals Speak on Barriers to Entering the Profession

CEELO shared this New America report highlighting bureaucratic, linguistic, and financial barriers paraprofessionals face in entering the teaching profession. Information comes from focus groups conducted with multilingual paraprofessionals in five cities.

“The nation’s linguistic diversity is growing steadily, particularly among the youngest children…” the report states. “Yet a majority of states report shortages of bilingual, dual immersion, and ESL teachers. States and districts should look to multilingual paraprofessionals to help fill these essential roles.”


Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction
To explore how educators might build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool, this USDOE study examined two types of strategies that preliminary literature searches revealed as promising practices to support children’s learning in early elementary school: (1) aligning instruction from preschool through grade 3 (referred to as P–3 alignment) and (2) differentiated instruction.

The P–3 alignment strategy emphasizes coordination among standards, curricula, instructional practices and environments, student assessment, and teacher professional development between the preschool years and the early elementary school years. The differentiated instruction strategy focuses on teachers varying their pedagogical practices to meet the diverse needs and skills of individual students.

State Pre-K Funding 2016-17 Fiscal Year: Trends and opportunities
An Education Commission of the States analysis of the 2016-17 state appropriations for prekindergarten by the 50 states and the District of Columbia shows continuing support from both Republican and Democratic governors, legislators and state boards of education.

In the 2016-17 budget year, 30 states increased funding levels for pre-K programs. Overall, state funding has increased by nearly $480 million or 6.8 percent since 2015-16. Additionally, since Education Commission of the States began producing this report five years ago, states have increased funding to pre-K programs by 47 percent.

Paid Parental Leave and Child Development
Last month, the German parental leave benefit marked its tenth anniversary. While implementation was “fervidly debated,” it is now a widely accepted family policy. DIW Economic Bulletin recently published a paper examining the effects of a substantial change in publicly funded paid parental leave in Germany on child development and socio-economic development gaps at age 6.

The benefit was changed in 2007 from means-tested and paid for up to 24 months after childbirth to earnings-related and paid for up to 14 months, benefiting higher-income households. Reform effects on children’s language skills, motor skills, socio-emotional stability, and school readiness were studied using administrative data from mandatory school entrance examinations. The results suggest that  such substantial changes in parental leave benefits are unlikely to have a substantial impact on children’s development.

Professional Development Can Enhance Caregivers’ Interactions with Young Children
A new literature review, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research for the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), highlights professional development (PD) strategies, resources, and components that can help caregivers better interact with infants and toddlers.

The review shows that PD can successfully enhance caregiver practice, even within a short time, and that online tools are a cost-effective and successful way to provide PD. Other key findings are highlighted in a Research Snapshot that accompanies the full report. The review provides a comprehensive examination of 122 studies. Appendix tables summarize key aspects of each study in the review.


Power to the Parents: Reclaiming our Voices, Our Worth, and Our World
Friday, February 10, 2017 or Saturday, February 25, 2017 
10am-noon PST 

Join Parent Advocate and Caring Economy Leader Kate Duva this month for a special 2-hour webinar, where she shares strategies for building a society that recognizes the value of nurturing in our communities and our economy. Learn more and register here.

The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy at The Ohio State University: Spring Distinguished Speaker Series
March 23 2:30-4:00 p.m.

Join world-renowned researcher Charles A. Nelson III, Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School as he presents, The Effects of Early Psychosocial Deprivation on Brain Behavior and Development, with reception to follow, at the Ohio Union, 1739 N High Street, Columbus. Register.

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: Seeds & STEM, Teacher Time and Untapped Talent