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Our Work

Partnership with New Jersey

New Jersey has a long history of supporting early learning through New Jersey Supreme Court decisions, legal regulations, financial investment, and state leadership.


Abbott v. Burke and Implementation of its Preschool Provisions

In 1981, New Jersey Supreme Court filings initiated the landmark Abbott v. Burke litigation. The Abbott v. Burke case may be the most educationally significant litigation for low-income and minority children since Brown v. Board of Education. The Abbott remedies were strikingly detailed and comprehensive, and the mandates broke new ground in school finance and education policy in the United States. After several iterations, in 1998, groundbreaking NJ Supreme Court rulings ordered a set of entitlements for children in 28 (later expanded to 31) of the state’s school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty, including a high-quality preschool program for all 3- and 4-year-olds.

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Abbott Outcomes (APPLES)

Abbott Implementation

Lessons From New Jersey's Abbott Preschool

President Biden has issued an historic call for free, universal preschool to prepare the nation’s youngsters for kindergarten and beyond. 

On June 17, 2021, the Education Law Center (ELC) and the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) convened a panel of experts to discuss “Lessons from New Jersey’s Abbott Preschool: Building a National System of High Quality Early Education.” The webinar explored how the NJ Supreme Court-ordered Abbott Preschool Program serves as a national model for the effective delivery of high quality early education for three- and four-year olds.

The webinar focused on the most recent results from NIEER’s longitudinal study of outcomes for children enrolled in the Abbott Preschool Program (APPLES-10), along with the key elements crucial for the program’s success and what it would take to replicate New Jersey’s model across the country.

Watch the Webinar

NJ Department of Education APPLES RDD & Pre-Post Study

The Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES) evaluates the long-term educational impact of pre-K on children’s learning and school success. NIEER partnered with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to obtain data from the statewide assessment data base to continue the longitudinal analysis of the APPLES I and APPLES II studies through high school and middle school, respectively. Follow-up through 10th grade (for APPLES I) was published in 2021 in Early Childhood Research Quarterly as Effects of New Jersey’s Abbott preschool program on children’s achievement, Grade Retention, and special education through tenth grade. 

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New Jersey Preschool Quality Evaluation

For more than 17 years NIEER has with rare exceptions, annually collected and analyzed classroom quality observation data for state-funded preschool classrooms. The results are used by the NJDOE to inform policy and practice decisions. 

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Ready, Set, Go: Expanding Capacity for Preschool Programs in New Jersey

In collaboration with NJDOE and Advocates for Children in New Jersey, NIEER faculty and staff are working with eligible school districts, other preschool providers, and key stakeholders to improve their readiness to apply for and effectively implement high-quality pre-k in New Jersey. The project’s aims are 1) to develop methods that are scalable and sustainable and 2) to increase capacity and knowledge at all levels of leadership from local to state and across auspice including private pre-k providers, school districts, Head Start, faculty, county, and state. For example, NIEER has established regional ECE Critical Friends groups where newly funded districts meet with experienced districts to work on problems of practice to augment direct technical assistance from NJDOE. 

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Understanding How Public Preschool Can Achieve and Maintain High Quality

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NIEER is conducting a multi-year study with more than 1,000 children and their parents in 15 New Jersey school districts to generate knowledge on how to bring quality early education to scale. A particular focus of this study is the impact of program quality on young children’s activity and stress levels as key determinants of health. NIEER’s research focuses on school districts serving populations with high levels of economic and social disadvantage. NIEER will compare and contrast districts with programs of varying quality, including some formerly known as “Abbott districts” that have sustained very high-quality programs serving both 3- and 4-year-olds for many years, as well as similar districts newly funded to provide high-quality pre-k programs to 4-year-olds. The study investigates how preschool policies and practices at school district, school, and classroom levels influence quality and children’s learning, development, and health. Specific topics include leadership and supervision, curriculum, teacher evaluation and professional development, and engagement of families and communities. Although conducted in New Jersey, this study is expected to have national implications. 

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