Volume 17, Issue 9

Hot Topics

Teaching the Teachers

Reports released this week by New America and Bellwether Education Partners tackle the issue of enhancing child outcomes by improving teacher preparation to deliver high-quality preschool experiences.

“Today, expectations of what early childhood educators should know and be able to do—and the education needed to access that knowledge and those skills—varies widely across states and individual programs,” New America reports. “One result of these uneven and often low expectations is that too many educators are inadequately prepared for this challenging work.”

As NIEER has highlighted for many years, a substantial number of states do not require lead pre-K teachers to have a bachelor’s degree to teach in their programs and some do not require specialized preparation in early childhood (for more details see The State of Preschool 2016).

This New America report recognizes that “many current and prospective pre-K teachers face significant barriers to obtaining bachelor’s degrees.” In addition, low wages and long hours can make attending college courses or completing programs “exceedingly difficult.” The report’s focus is on strategies to address these barriers that will increase access to strong teacher preparation programs.

Bellwether’s report, It Takes a Community: Leveraging Community Colleges to Transform the Early Childhood Workforce, points to community colleges as part of the solution, offering benefits of affordability and accessibility for aspiring teachers or those seeking professional development.

Today, the majority of early childhood degree programs are at two-year institutions, Bellwether reports. “Thus it’s important to ensure that community college early childhood programs are high quality, provide the supports that early childhood workers need to successfully complete degrees, and enable graduates to successfully transition to four-year degree 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 is joining with PNC Foundation, through its Grow Up Great program, to showcase play as learning for young children during the annual health fair and recreation event in New Brunswick, NJ. This year’s event will be June 2 in Buccleuch Park.

The “Health and Play Family Day” event hosted by the New Brunswick Recreation Department attracts hundreds of children and families for a health fair sponsored by St Peter’s University Hospital providing health screenings and Q&A with physicians, and other activities such as music, games and food trucks.

For the first time, NIEER and PNC Foundation will offer pre-K activities—including bilingual Simon Says, art, dress-up, and blocks—while talking with parents about the importance of play in a child’s development. Benefits of play include: sustained attention, understanding symbolic representation, cooperation, problem-solving, self-regulation, cognitive development and content knowledge.

CEELO Update

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently updated its online Directory of State Early Learning Contacts. You can find the new version here. CEELO hopes you continue to find it a useful resource.


Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in US Children, 1999–2016

In a recent study released in Pediatrics journal, researchers provided updated data on obesity trends among children and adolescents in the United States aged 2 to 19 years from a nationally representative sample.

Researchers found that White and Asian American children had significantly lower rates of obesity than African American children, Hispanic children, or children of other races. They also report an upward trend in overweight and obesity among children 2-19 years old, overall.

Children aged 2 to 5 years showed a sharp increase in obesity prevalence from 2015 to 2016 compared with 2013-2014. Authors suggest that regardless of previous reports that obesity in children and adolescents has remained stable or decreased recently, they report no evidence of a decline in obesity across any ages studied.

Parental Education and Pre-School Children’s Objectively Measured Sedentary Time: The Role of Co-Participation in Physical Activity

A recent International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health article examined associations between parental education, co-participation in physical activity, and the physical activity and sedentary time of preschool children in Finland.

Parents with a lower educational background reported more frequent visits with their child to their own yard which was associated with children’s lower sedentary time. More highly educated parents co-visited indoor sports facilities more frequently, but, there was no significant association with children’s sedentary time found. The researchers also found that more frequent visits in nature were associated with a lower sedentary time on weekdays, regardless of educational background.

The authors suggest health education and promotion to inform parents that frequent co-participation in physical activity can be beneficial for lowering children’s sedentary time. They also recommend co-participating in unstructured play with their children in both their own yards and in nature near their homes.

The role of elementary school quality in the persistence of preschool effects

A new article published in Children and Youth Services Review examined whether subsequent experiences moderate the academic benefits of preschool over time. Data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort: 1998 were used to examine relationships.

Researchers found that, for the most part, benefits of preschool persisted through the fifth grade for those children who later attended high-quality elementary school and less than one-quarter of the benefits persisted for children who later attended elementary schools of low quality. Researchers suggest, overall, the important role elementary schools can have in maintaining the long-term academic benefits of preschool.

Better together: Developmental screening and monitoring best identify children who need early intervention

Developmental monitoring and development screening are widely recommended to identify children in need of early intervention, but little research has compared the effectiveness of using both approaches together. In a new article in Disability and Health Journal, researchers investigated the relationship between participation in developmental monitoring, developmental screening, both, or none on participation in Part C early intervention-based analyses of the 2007/2008 and 2011/2012 National Survey of Children’s Health.

Researchers estimated Early Intervention receipt prevalence to be higher for children receiving both developmental monitoring and developmental screening compared to children receiving none, or either developmental monitoring or developmental screening alone, in 2007/2008 and in 2011/2012 timeframes. This study supports the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that developmental screening and developmental monitoring are complementary strategies for improving early identification and linkage to Early Intervention for young children.

The effects of screen media content on young children’s executive functioning

In a recent study published in Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, researchers assessed executive function with 96 two- and three-year-old children before and after a brief screen intervention consisting of watching an educational television show, playing an educational app, or watching a cartoon. Children’s ability to delay gratification was also assessed.

Researchers found children were more likely to delay gratification after playing an educational app than after viewing a cartoon. In some instances, children’s working memory improved after playing the educational app. Researchers emphasize that interactivity and content may be more important factors to consider than simply “screen time” when conducting research on executive function and other measures of child development.


Senior Policy Analyst, Early Childhood Education and Care, OECD

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development is seeking an expert in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), focusing on policy analysis, policy-oriented quantitative and qualitative research, and strategic development and management of international programs in ECED.

See the position description available here for details. Application deadline is March 16, 2018.


National Research Conference on Early Childhood

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is hosting NRCEC 2018 on June 25–27, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia.

The conference will present the latest research surrounding child care, Head Start, Early Head Start, home visiting, child welfare, special education, prekindergarten, early elementary, and other early childhood programs.

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: Teaching teachers, New State Directory, Help Wanted