RWJF Supports NIEER Research into Effects of PreK on Child Health

New Brunswick, NJ – The National Institute for Early Education Research is proud to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on a multi-year study engaging more than 1,000 children across 16 New Jersey school districts to identify and combat obstacles to healthy child development.

Children living below poverty level are at higher risk for school failure, poor job prospects and chronic health problems. Nationally, nearly one in three children is overweight or obese as many families still lack access to healthy food or safe places to play.

High-quality preschool programs have the potential to improve developmental outcomes for children, as well as prevent or ameliorate health problems. Yet there is a scarcity of research on the critical components of preschool policy and practice that result in lasting benefits for children.

“Too often, research on preschool programs overlooks impacts on health,” said Steven Barnett, Ph.D., founder and senior co-director of NIEER. “Understanding the health impacts of high-quality programs is important as policymakers and parents consider costs and benefits of investing in high-quality preschool.”

NIEER’s research will primarily concentrate on school districts with high levels of economic and social disadvantage, including some formerly known as “Abbott districts” with mature high-quality programs serving both 3- and 4-year-olds, and other districts with more recent pre-k programs serving only 4-year-olds. The level of academic achievement varies across these districts, and the research may help identify why the variation occurs.

In this comprehensive study, NIEER will investigate how preschool policies and practices at school district, school, and classroom levels influence child outcomes. Specifically, NIEER will explore leadership/supervision, curriculum, teacher evaluation and professional development and engagement of families and communities.

The NIEER research team encompasses multiple disciplines, including economics, education, developmental psychology and pediatrics. Results will be released publicly and shared with a “community of practice” so district representatives can learn from each other.

“By evaluating and providing information about current policies and their consequences, we can inform the public and encourage policymakers to develop effective early education practices that benefit children and families,” Dr. Barnett said.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education conducts and disseminates research to support high-quality, effective early childhood education for all young children. To learn more, visit