Volume 17, Issue 8

Hot Topics

Superdiversity Heroes

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute reveals a “superdiversity” of language and culture emerging among families of young children across the US, raising concerns about whether early education programs have the supports they need to meet their needs.

About 95 percent of dual language learners (DLLs) are US born. Young children growing up with one or more parents speaking a language other than English at home now make up nearly one-third of the U.S. child population ages 8 and under, according to Growing Superdiversity among Young U.S. Dual Language Learners and Its Implications.

Spanish is the most prevalent language, spoken by about 60 percent of parents of dual language learners, followed by Chinese, the report states. Yet MPI’s analysis shows other languages rising significantly in number among parents of young children.

These children often face many hurdles, with 31 percent of DLLs in families below the federal poverty level, compared to 22 percent of non-DLL children. Also, their parents are more likely to have lower levels of education and limited access to educational, medical, and other critical services due to language barriers.

“Many communities across the United States are experiencing classroom superdiversity with little to no guidance on effective practices for promoting their cognitive and socioemotional development,” the authors write.

“As this diversity continues to grow and shift, ECEC systems and programs will need to build strategies to effectively meet the learning needs of these children and support their parents in doing the same.”

A good first step is to improve the collection of data on the home languages of young DLLs, according to the MPI report. Indeed, NIEER documented a lack of data about DLLs in a 2015 special report, noting fewer than half of states could report the number of DLL children who were served.

NIEER research also found few states required lead teachers to have specialized preparation to work with DLLs. Fewer than 30 states reported providing professional development or coaching for teachers of DLLs—and still the content or strategies offered is unknown. (see State of Preschool 2015 Appendix A  p. 280)

The MPI report, the first in a series of three examining superdiversity, calls for research to develop instructional approaches, a more diverse early education workforce, family engagement and expanded translation and interpreting services.

The State of Preschool 2017 report coming in April will include an updated report on DLL policies across state-funded pre-K programs.

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’s State of Preschool yearbook is the only national report on state-funded preschool programs with detailed information on enrollment, funding, teacher qualifications, and other policies related to quality, such as the presence of a qualified teacher and assistant, small class size, and low teacher-to-student ratio.

Our next State of Preschool report will be published in April reflecting data from 2016-17.

Watch for our infographics illustrating disparities among states in enrollment, quality and support for high-quality public preschool coming soon to social media!

CEELO Update

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) will be hosting its fourth Leadership Academy cohort in 2018-19. The application process is now open. Deadline to submit is March 9, 2018.

The Leadership Academy is a yearlong, intensive professional development experience. Participants build friendships and networks, gain practical skills, and tackle real-life issues facing their agencies. This year, Academy Fellows also receive a stipend to host a meeting in their states.  

To learn more, view this webinar about the Leadership Academy featuring previous discussing their experiences, and read this Q&A with 2016-17 Fellows along with Leadership Academy FAQ.

What We’re Reading

Voices of child care providers: an exploratory study on the impact of policy changes

A recently published International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy article responds to the lack of providers’ voices in many debates about child care and early education by sharing child care provider perspectives on how regulation and policy changes impact their ability to provide care.

Interviews and focus groups with both home-based providers and center-based administrators in rural, urban, and suburban New York counties provided four overarching themes: undervaluation of child care providers, challenges faced by providers and the parents of the children they serve, regulatory disconnect, and discretionary implementation of laws and regulations.

Many respondents expressed feeling appreciated by families they served, with many providing extra food or extended care when needed. They also believed “people fundamentally misunderstand their expertise and their commitment to care work.” Specifically, “policymakers failed to recognize the importance of the services they provide, not only to families, but also to the broader society.”

Most participants reported being unable to fund desired changes to improve facilities, work force, and programming, as high operating costs prevented some respondents from providing optimal care, including hiring the most qualified staff.

Too often, they said, “laws and regulations are disconnected from the actual job of caring for and educating children.” Providers felt they had little or no role in the regulatory process and noted financial burdens resulting from unfunded policy mandates, along with confusion over interpretations.

Authors Corey Shdaimah, Elizabeth Palley and Amanda Miller recommend including providers in policymaking, assisting them with compliance, and standardizing enforcement to better align with realities of providing quality care, noting “child care providers need to be seen as partners with parents who enable social and economic well-being of children, families, employers, and broader society.”

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. IJCCEP publishes original and review papers, technical reports, case studies, conference reports, and government reports, including thematic series.


Linguistic environment of preschool classrooms: What dimensions support children’s language growth?

A paper recently published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly examined the dimensions of preschool classrooms’ linguistic environment. While analyses of data supported a tri-dimensional structure, only the teacher’s communication-facilitating dimension predicted vocabulary growth in children over time in this study.

Authors suggest teachers may facilitate children’s language growth using strategies to both encourage children to talk more and to encourage children’s active participation in conversations. Other suggested approaches include, but are not limited to, following the child’s lead and expectantly waiting for children to respond. They further suggest that many classroom quality measures may not adequately document these types of critical proximal processes between children and their teachers.

Implications for teacher professional development include focusing on helping them engage children in productive conversations. The authors cite evidence that teachers can significantly increase their use of these behaviors with relatively little training.

Measuring Preschool Learning Engagement in the Laboratory 

While learning engagement is a critical factor for academic success, current assessment approaches rely primarily on either classroom observation, teacher report, or both. In a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers investigated the validity of a new measure of learning engagement with preschoolers in a lab setting and its relationship to future classroom adjustment.

Researchers found the new measure of engagement predicted both classroom behavior and academic performance in kindergarten. Authors report on strong evidence for the validity of the new measure. This study’s findings have important implications for future lines of inquiry on the learning engagement of preschoolers and research examining mechanisms that may support their successful academic adjustment.

Exploring Mothers’ Influence on Preschoolers’ Physical Activity and Sedentary Time: A Cross-Sectional Study

In a recent study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, researchers studied mother’s influence on preschoolers’ physical activity and sedentary time. Maternal support was found to be a significant predictor of both preschoolers’ light and moderate-vigorous physical activity, and sedentary time.

Researchers suggest that more study is needed to investigate barriers mothers encounter in supporting preschooler physical activity. Additionally, they call for an examination of ways to support mothers to promote physical activity and to model active behaviors themselves.

Who Eats School Breakfast? Parent Perceptions of School Breakfast in a State with Very Low Participation

In a recent study published in the Journal of School Health, researchers examined parent perceptions of school breakfast in a state with low participation in the Federal School Breakfast program. They also identified relationships between those who do, and do not, consume breakfast at school.  

Child grade level, participation in free and reduced-price lunch, and perceived benefits of school breakfast were significantly related to eating breakfast at school. Researchers found that parent perception was related to participation. They also identified areas for possible targeted parent education efforts to increase participation.  

Engaging Fathers in Effective Parenting for Preschool Children Using Shared Book Reading: A Randomized Controlled Trial

In study recently published by the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, researchers evaluated the effects of the Fathers Supporting Success in Preschoolers: A Community Parent Education Program that integrates behavioral parent training with shared book reading to engage male guardians and improve child outcomes.  

Spanish-speaking fathers and their children were recruited across three Head Start centers in urban communities and were randomized to the intervention or to a wait-list control condition. Outcomes were obtained before and immediately after the intervention.   

Researchers suggest results indicate male guardians (fathers) from primarily immigrant, Spanish-speaking families in high-risk communities can successfully engage in parenting interventions that result in improved parent and child outcomes. Authors report this short-term intervention, administered efficiently by Head Start center staff, has a high likelihood of feasibility and sustainability in Head Start.  


Hunt Institute

The Hunt Institute is seeking a Director of Early Childhood (EC Director) to work with the Policy & Research team as well as leadership to support the Institute’s policy work and programming related to early childhood, with a particular emphasis on children ages zero to three.

To apply, submit cover letter, along with a résumé or CV to applicant@hunt-institute.org with the subject line “Director of Early Childhood” Position is open until filled.

University of Maryland CECEI 

The Center for Early Childhood Education and Intervention (CECEI) at University of Maryland, College Park is seeking a Postdoctoral Research Associate. The initial full-time appointment will be for two years, starting in June 2018, with the possibility of a renewal depending on funding.

The position involves contributing to the evaluation of an Early Head Start-child care partnership, as well as other early childhood interventions. Please see the position descriptionReview of applications will begin March 15, 2018.


Preparing Pre-K Teachers: Envisioning Equitable Pathways to High-Quality Bachelor’s Degrees 

February 26, 2018
Noon – 1:45 pm
New America
740 15th St NW #900
Washington, D.C.

In September 2017, New America and Bellwether Education Partners convened researchers, policymakers and advocates to discuss changes needed to make a bachelor’s degree or equivalent credential with specialization in early childhood education the reality for pre-K teachers across the US.

During this event, New America and Bellwether will release a white paper on several key takeaways from this convening and host a discussion featuring Shayna Cook, New America policy analyst, Marnie Kaplan, Bellwether senior analyst, Sue Russell, T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® National Center and moderator Jeneen Interlandi, Writer, New York Times Magazine.

Interlandi’s recent article “Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?” highlighted how the training pre-K teachers have, and the compensation they receive, often don’t match the complexity or importance of their work.

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: Superdiversity, Provider Voices and Mom's Influence