NIEER Partners with 20 New Jersey School Districts to Enhance K-3 Education

For Immediate Release: November 16, 2016

Media Contact: Michelle Ruess,,   609-658-6873

Rutgers University, NJ – Elementary schools across New Jersey are partnering with the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University to help students in kindergarten through third grade build strong educational foundations needed to succeed in school and in life.

NIEER and Rutgers, in conjunction with the New Jersey Department of Education, last year created and published guidelines outlining a comprehensive, continuous, developmentally appropriate, and academically rigorous approach to K-3 education. School districts were invited to participate in a study of their current practice, combined with professional development, with the goal of enhancing their K-3 teaching and learning through implementing the guidelines.

“New Jersey is a pioneer in providing quality preschool programs that close achievement gaps and help children come to kindergarten ready academically, socially and emotionally,” said Shannon Riley-Ayers, Ph.D., NIEER principal investigator. “But high-quality K-3 programs are also needed to take maximum advantage of that solid foundation and build further gains.”

Acting New Jersey Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington noted how the partnership could benefit New Jersey students. “The Department of Education continues to emphasize the importance of quality early education programs,” she said. “This collaborative work can help provide local educators with a model for meeting the comprehensive needs of their students and their students’ families.”

Focusing on primary grades is an effective strategy for building academic success because children this age are learning to be fluent readers and writers, and to master concepts and processes in math, science and social sciences, according to Sharon Ryan, Ed.D., chair of the GSE Department of Learning and Teaching at Rutgers and co-principal investigator.

Of the 20 states receiving national Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grants, New Jersey is one of just six to dedicate a portion of its grant funding to improve primary grade education. The goal is to provide a model for national K-3 policy with the results from this study.

This fall, NIEER researchers began visiting schools in 20 participating districts across the state. (See list below). Throughout the 2016-17 school year, NIEER and Rutgers researchers will visit participating schools to observe teachers and provide professional development on implementing recommended practices outlined in the new guidelines. NIEER will share preliminary observations with school administrators in January and then continue working with districts through December 2018.

Dr. Rick Falkenstein, Chief School Administrator in Kingwood Township, has seen the benefits of quality preschool programs and is proud to be part of this effort. “We believe our program is a good one, but everyone recognizes there is always room to improve,” said Dr. Falkenstein. “Kindergarten through third grade is our best chance as educators to get kids off to a good start that can carry them through life.”

Participating districts and charter schools include:

  1. Allamuchy Township
  2. Berlin Township
  3. Bridgeton Public Charter School
  4. Eatontown Borough
  5. Hopatcong Borough
  6. Jersey City
  7. Kingwood Township
  8. Millville Public Charter School
  9. Plainfield
  10. Phillipsburg
  11. Riverbank Charter School of Excellence (Roebling)
  12. Rumson
  13. Scotch Plains-Fanwood
  14. Stratford Borough
  15. Toms River
  16. Union City
  17. University Heights Charter School (Newark)
  18. Upper Deerfield Township
  19. Vineland Public Charter School
  20. Willingboro


The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education conducts and communicates research to support high-quality, effective early childhood education for all young children. The Institute offers independent, research-based advice and technical assistance to policymakers, journalists, researchers, and educators. To learn more, visit

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