Volume 18, Issue 1

Hot Topics

Pre-K That Is First Class

A new issue brief released by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education reports the results of a rigorous, new study of long-term outcomes. The study finds students who participated in the state’s First Class Pre-K program were statistically significantly more likely to be proficient in math and in reading compared to students who did not attend, based on assessments through seventh grade—indicating “no evidence of fade out of the benefits of First Class Pre-K over time.”

“These results persist after controlling for factors that have been shown to influence academic performance, including poverty, gender, race/ethnicity, classroom/school factors, and time,” according  to the University of Alabama Birmingham researchers and the Public Research Council of Alabama evaluation.

Across the three school years and five cohorts involved in the evaluation, 34.7% of all students were proficient in reading and 46.1% were proficient in math.

Overall, First Class Pre-K students were more likely to be Black and live in poverty than children who did not attend First Class Pre-K. With other factors held constant, the study found students in poverty, males, and Black, Hispanic, or Other-Multiple race/ethnicities were less likely to be proficient in either skill.

However, controlling for these demographics and school attended, students who participated in First Class Pre-K were 1.6 percentage points more likely to be proficient in reading and 3.2 percentage points more likely to be proficient in math compared to students who did not receive First Class Pre-K, according to the evaluation.

“Observed differences in performance of First Class Pre-K students did not change over time and…the positive benefits persist as children age and progress to later grades,” the report states.

The Alabama pre-K program has met all 10 quality standards benchmarks included in NIEER’s annual State of Preschool yearbook for more than a decade—and has quadrupled enrollment since 2012.

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 this week published Early Childhood Education: Three Pathways to Better Health, a new policy paper exploring how access to high-quality preschool and parenting education beginning in early pregnancy can provide children lasting health benefits in the U.S. and internationally. NIEER recommends that programs:

  • Provide health screenings and referrals for follow-up care to encourage and facilitate access to vision, hearing, dental, mental health and other health care
  • Educate about health, nutrition and exercise so children and parents can develop healthy habits
  • Offer nutrition supplementation to prevent, and reverse, malnutrition where needed
  • Make healthy eating and exercise including vigorous outdoor play a regular part of daily life to create healthier habits for a lifetime in order to combat obesity and other long-term health problems
  • Support children’s social-emotional development and mental health

CEELO Update

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) this week posted online a recent presentation by CEELO Senior Project Director Lori Connors-Tadros to the Louisiana Early Childhood Care and Education Commission.

The Louisiana legislature has charged the Commission with making recommendations to build on the current early care and education (ECE) quality infrastructure. The presentation provides information on how selected states have developed a sustainable financing plan for increasing access to quality ECE, particularly for infants and toddlers.


Children’s Cortisol Response to the Transition from Preschool to Formal Schooling: A Review

A new review of the literature in Psychoneuroendocrinology examined children’s biological stress response during the transition from preschool to compulsory formal schooling. The review focuses on longitudinal studies that include repeated measures of cortisol concentrations in saliva or scalp hair. In all, eight independent studies (ten publications) were found.

Researchers suggest that their results support the hypothesis that the transition from preschool to formal schooling coincides with an increase in cortisol concentration. Researchers suggest that it could take as many as 3-6 months before kindergarten children’s cortisol concentration returns to baseline levels on average, with important individual differences reported. Authors suggest that it remains unknown whether there are actual functional consequences of individual differences in children’s cortisol response associated with this transition. Researchers note methodological limitations and recommend approaches for future research.

Maternal Behaviors in Toddlerhood as Predictors of Children’s Private Speech in Preschool

In a new Journal of Experimental Child Psychology article, researchers investigated longitudinally how sensitive parenting and directive parenting in toddlerhood interacted to predict preschoolers’ private speech in an emotion-eliciting task. Researchers observed maternal parenting behaviors during two free-play sessions in toddlerhood. Then, as preschoolers, social and private speech were transcribed and coded during a frustration task by researchers.

Researchers found that when sensitivity was high, parents who were less directive had children who used more facilitative task-relevant private speech. Researchers suggest that children’s regulation may be supported through the combination of high sensitivity and low directiveness when parents and children are engaged in unstructured play together.

Is There a Direct Relation Between the Development of Vocabulary and Grammar?

A new study released in Developmental Science analyzed longitudinal data from three annual assessments of vocabulary and grammar in 217 children. The authors note that previous studies of individual differences have revealed strong correlations between children’s vocabulary and grammatical abilities.

The results revealed a small direct contribution from grammar to vocabulary for children between the ages of 4 and 5, but there was no evidence of any direct contributions from vocabulary to grammar. Researchers report that analyses also indicate that the home literacy environment may represent a common source of individual differences in children’s vocabulary and grammatical skills. They suggest the evidence of direct relations between vocabulary and grammatical development in preschool‐aged children may not be as strong as previously assumed.

Feasibility, acceptability, and potential efficacy of a childcare-based intervention to reduce sitting time among pre-schoolers: A pilot randomised controlled trial

A new Journal of Sports Sciences study examined the feasibility, acceptability and potential efficacy of a childcare-based intervention to reduce total and prolonged sitting time in preschoolers. Four centers and 115 preschoolers participated in a 3-month, 2-arm pilot cluster randomized controlled trial. Researchers assessed feasibility and acceptability through observations and semi-structured interviews.

Researchers suggest that modifications to the child care environment to reducing sitting, particularly standing workstations, were feasible and acceptable to educators and children. However, no differences in sitting time between experimental and control groups were seen. Researchers suggest that additional changes and longer-term trials are needed to reduce sitting time in preschoolers.

A Population-Based Study of School Readiness Determinants in a Large Urban Public School District

A new study released in Maternal and Child Health Journal examined biologic and social relationships in school readiness in an urban population and whether childcare altered these associations. The study was based on school readiness data linked to birth certificates of 39,463 first-time kindergarten students in a large, urban public-school district during 2002–2012.

Researchers report that childcare was an important predictor of mean readiness scores and that these scores were highest for district prekindergarten students and for students of mothers with greater years of education. Researchers suggest the need for greater attention to family and child health backgrounds when examining school readiness. They further suggest that increased enrollment in formal childcare may improve school readiness in these settings.


NAEYC Professional Learning Institute

NAEYC’s Professional Learning Institute is designed for all early childhood professionals, including leaders who prepare, mentor, and support early childhood professionals, as well as program administrators, teacher educators, trainers, teachers, preschool teachers, and researchers. Each year, thousands of early childhood professionals gather at NAEYC’s Professional Learning Institute.

The Institute features more than 200 sessions highlighting the latest information and research in the field. NAEYC is still accepting proposals to present at the 2019 Professional Learning Institute, June 2-5 in Long Beach, CA. Deadline to submit is January 8, 2019.

Submit a proposal here


Introduction to a Comprehensive Life Course Monitoring System

January 23, 2019
1:30 pm PT

This webinar featuring Martin Guhn, PhD (Assistant Professor, Human Early Learning Partnership, University of British Columbia) and Magdalena Janus, PhD (Associate Professor, McMaster University) will provide an introduction to a comprehensive life course monitoring system that supports a systems approach, how Canada has made an impact with EDI, and how they are building the early stages of the system with the TDI and CHEQ measurement systems.

Featuring experts in the US, Canada, and Australia, this webinar series will explore strategies for developing measurement systems to monitor and improve children’s health development trajectories. This series will mainly focus on the use of the Early Development Instrument (EDI), which measures healthy development and wellbeing of 5-year-olds, and the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI), which measures healthy development and wellbeing of 9- and 11-year-olds.

The series will begin in January 2019 and run through August. For more information, and to register please visit here

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: First Class, Child Health, NAEYC