Volume 17, Issue 7

Hot Topics

Immigration Challenges

As Congress struggles to find consensus on US immigration policy, a recently published Urban Institute study offers successful strategies for enabling children from low-income immigrant families to narrow the achievement gap by encouraging enrollment in quality preschool.

Traditionally, pre-K enrollment for children of immigrant families lags enrollment of children with US-born parents, so they are more likely to miss out on early learning opportunities that can benefit all children and, especially, dual language learners.

Expanding Preschool Access for Children of Immigrants focuses on state-funded pre-K programs in four communities with unusually high rates of enrollment among low-income immigrant families and negligible or nonexistent gaps in enrollment between children of immigrants and children of US-born parents: Dearborn, Michigan; Atlanta, Georgia; King County, Washington; and Houston, Texas.

Barriers to access often include insufficient outreach by programs; oversubscribed programs; and inconvenient locations, hours, and schedules. And in many communities, the report states, immigrant families also face challenges related to inadequate translation and interpretation services.

Similar issues were identified in The State of Preschool 2015 special report on policies related to dual language learners. That report will be updated in the 2017 yearbook coming in April.

Nationally, 23% of young children are estimated to be DLLs, varying from 2% in West Virginia to 45% in California, according to the 2015 yearbook. Only 23 states could report the number of DLL children who were served in their states and only five states require any special qualifications for teachers of young DLL children, much less that the teachers be bilingual. Rhode Island was the only state that could report the percentages of lead and assistant teachers fluent in a language other than English.

Supporting diverse learners can only be done, however, with data about who these children are. Programs and policies must engage families and craft guidance that supports teachers and children alike. See NIEER blog States Lack Information, Policy for Young Dual Language Learners

This Urban Institute study, conducted between November 2016 and February 2017, also noted a distrust of government institutions. “During this period of changing immigration policy and enforcement, parents and stakeholders expressed uncertainty and concern about rapidly changing immigration policy contexts and their potential to affect preschool enrollment,” the report states. “Stakeholders particularly noted growing fear among undocumented and mixed-status families.”

It’s important to recognize that most young children of immigrant families are US citizens, which raises concerns about who has legal standing to advocate for them and safeguard their rights to education and other services. The more trusted professionals such as preschool teachers and administrators can do to support these young learners, the better.

We invite you to follow NIEER on Twitter @PreschoolToday and Facebook at Preschool Today. Please share your social media handles so we can connect.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Senior Co-Director Ellen Frede recently participated in a panel discussion hosted by Right from the Start NJ, a statewide advocacy effort dedicated to ensuring resources and services are in place, so infants and toddlers can achieve the highest level of cognitive, emotional, and physical development possible.

The discussion featured “Cradle to Kindergarten” authors Ajay Chaudry, Ph.D., former deputy assistant secretary for human services policy at HHS, and Taryn Morrisssey, Ph.D., senior advisor in human services policy at HHS, along with a panel of early care and education experts. The event was moderated by Steve Adubato.

Watch video of Cradle to Kindergarten roundtable discussion (January 29, 2018)

CEELO Update

CEELO Senior Project Director Lori Connors-Tadros wrote about the legacy of the National Association of State Boards of Education task force on early education and its 1988 seminal Right from the Start report for the recent NASBE Stepping Up for Early Childhood Education journal.

CEELO and NIEER participated in a Feb. 8 Twitter chat hosted by NASBE to discuss early ed achievements from “Right from the Start” to today—and next steps to enhance outcomes for children. View the Twitter Chat, which featured several early education experts including NAEYC, CSCCE at Berkeley and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education.


Physical Activity Opportunities Within the Schedule of Early Care and Education Centers 

In a recent Journal of Physical Activity and Health study, researchers investigated how early care and education centers allot time for physical activity. They also measured individual physical activity levels for indoor/outdoor activities during a typical day. 

Levels of physical activity varied between indoor and outdoor class activities. Authors note that efforts to increase physical activity in preschoolers should consider these patterns to leverage opportunities to optimize physical activity within early care and education centers. Other policy and program recommendations are discussed. 

Lead Exposure and Developmental Disabilities in Preschool-Aged Children 

While previous researchers have identified lead as a preventable environmental toxin associated with deficits in cognition, academic performance, attention, and behavior in children, few studies have examined the relationship between exposure to lead and documented developmental disabilities. In a new study published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, researchers examined the relative risk of lead exposure on developmental disabilities in preschool-aged children. 

Researchers identified an association between lead exposure and numerous intellectual and educational outcomes, which is consistent with prior research.  

Future Directions for Research on Early Intervention for Young Children at Risk for Social Anxiety 

A new article in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology reviews research and theory that point to parenting and peer interactions as moderating inhibited temperament and shyness, as well as social withdrawal, which can both be risk factors for later anxiety in children.  

Study authors suggest a number of future research directions that include examining more closely how and why treatments work. They further suggest that future research focus on both treatment efficiency as well as dissemination of effective treatments.  

Maternal sensitivity to distress, attachment and the development of callous-unemotional traits in young children 

A new study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry examines whether maternal sensitivity to distress, and other parenting characteristics, were related to callous-unemotional traits in preschoolers over the preschool period. They also examined whether this was mediated by infant attachment status.  

Researchers found that both parental sensitivity to distress and positive parental regard were related to a reduction in callous-unemotional traits in preschool-aged children. Researchers also suggest that children’s responsiveness to others’ emotions may be increased by both their own mothers’ responsiveness to them and their mothers’ warmth. Researchers also reported that infant attachment status did not mediate the relationship.  


Project HOPE Grants

The BUILD Initiative is working with BMC Vital Village Network and Nemours—with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—on The Project HOPE Consortium.

Project HOPE is designed to generate real progress toward equitable outcomes for young children (prenatal to age five) and their families by building the capacity of local communities, state leaders, cross-sector state teams, and local coalitions.

States and communities are invited to build collaborative teams to participate in this work. Grants will support in-depth technical assistance for capacity-building through targeted funding, tailored provision of technical assistance, focused strategies and approaches, tools and materials, webinars, and support for in-person convening. Complete your Expression of Interest Survey before March 8, 2018.


2018 San Antonio Regional PK-12 Public Education Forum

March 6, 2018
Mays Family Center, Witte Museum
San Antonio TX 

Early education—one of just five priorities Texas Gov. Greg Abbott named in the 2017 legislative session—has been a focus for local officials in recent years, resulting in initiatives such as Pre-K 4 SA. The topic also is the focus for the 2018 San Antonio Regional PK-12 Public Education Forum, with NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett as a featured speaker. Ticket proceeds benefit local education projects.

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: Immigration Challenges, Cradle to K, Got HOPE?