Over the last decade, there has been increased attention on early education, but real progress for children and families has remained out of reach. We want America’s children to become lifelong learners who are able to think critically and inventively, manage their emotions and impulses, and make smart decisions by drawing upon a rich knowledge base about how the world works. To make this goal a reality for all children, New America makes eight recommendations, suggests specific actions, and pinpoints which actors — federal, state, and local policymakers, as well as educators and administrators — should help move the work forward.
Supporting Early Learning in America: Policies for a New Decade
Bornfreund, L., Franchino, E., Garcia, A., et al, Supporting Early Learning in America: Policies for a New Decade (February 2020). Washingtron, DC: New America Foundation.
The persistence of reading and math proficiency: the benefits of Alabama’s pre-kindergarten program endure in elementary and middle school
Preskitt, J., Johnson, H., Becker, D. et al. The persistence of reading and math proficiency: the benefits of Alabama’s pre-kindergarten program endure in elementary and middle school. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy 14, 8 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40723-020-00073-3
Preschool programs provide opportunities to improve early childhood educational outcomes as well as long-term outcomes, such as improved educational attainment, improved socioeconomic status, and improved health in adulthood. However, recent studies of long-term impacts have shown equivocal results, with some educational gains occurring immediately following participation in preschool that diminish or “fadeout” over time. The purpose of this study was to use multivariable linear regression and school fixed effects to determine the impact of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K (FCPK) program on reading and math proficiency as children progress from 3rd grade to 7th grade. Results indicate that children who received FCPK were statistically significantly more likely to be proficient in both math and reading compared to students who did not receive FCPK. Further, there was no statistical evidence of fadeout of the benefits of FCPK through the 7th grade, indicating the persistence of the benefits of FCPK into middle school.
Big Ideas, Little Learners: Early Childhood Trends Report 2019
Big Ideas, Little Learners: Early Childhood Trends Report 2019 (January 2019). Redwood City, CA: Omidyar Network.
How do we close the gap between the growing demand from a new generation of parents, educators, and policymakers who recognize the importance of early childhood education and the relative scarcity of scalable solutions that would allow each and every young child to thrive? This report showcases the megatrends driving new demand and supply in early childhood education. In addition increasing public funding for evidence-based solutions, such as quality pre-K programs, Early Head Start and home visitation programs, and increase the compensation and stature of the early childhood workforce, this report states that we need to attract entrepreneurial and leadership talent to the early childhood field along with innovation-focused capital to ultimately increase the supply of quality solutions.
Differences in Parent-Toddler Interactions With Electronic Versus Print Books
Researchers examined parent-toddler verbal and nonverbal interactions when reading electronic versus print books. Results revealed that reading print books together generated more verbalizations about the story from parents and from toddlers, more back and forth “dialogic” collaboration. (“What’s happening here?” “Remember when you went to the beach with Dad?”). Future studies should examine specific aspects of tablet-book design that support parent-child interaction. Pediatricians may wish to continue promoting shared reading of print books, particularly for toddlers and younger children.
When Children Are Not Read to at Home: The Million Word Gap
In the U.S., there are numerous ongoing efforts to remedy the word gap: massive differences in heard vocabulary for poor versus advantaged children during the first 5 years of life. One potentially important resource for vocabulary exposure is children's book reading sessions, which are more lexically diverse than standard caregiver-child conversations and have demonstrated significant correlational and causal influences on children's vocabulary development. Yet, nationally representative data suggest that around 25% of caregivers never read with their children. This study uses data from 60 commonly read children's books to estimate the number of words that children are exposed to during book reading sessions. Results showed that parents who read 1 picture book with their children every day provide their children with exposure to an estimated 78,000 words each a year. Cumulatively, over the 5 years before kindergarten entry, researchers estimate that children from literacy-rich homes hear a cumulative 1.4 million more words during storybook reading than children who are never read to. These results suggest that home-based shared book reading represents an important resource for closing the word gap.
Many children in the United States enter kindergarten with limitations in their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development that might have been significantly diminished or eliminated through early identification and attention to child and family needs. School readiness once was thought to be solely the function of the child and family with focus primarily on pre-academic skills. We now recognize that schools and communities also are responsible for school readiness, and that a child’s experiences from birth impact the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development needed for school success. Pediatricians have a significant role to play in school readiness. They have longstanding relationships with children and families that are established early and grow over time. In many instances, pediatricians are at the forefront of advocating for access to health care, home visitation, preschool mental health consultation, early literacy funding, quality early childhood programs and child care subsidies. In multiple ways, pediatricians are an integral link between children and their families to school and community programs that promote school readiness.
The 'blowfish effect': Children learn new words like adults do
Lauren L. Emberson, Nicole Loncar, Carolyn Mazzei, Isaac TREVES, Adele E. Goldberg. The blowfish effect: children and adults use atypical exemplars to infer more narrow categories during word learning. Journal of Child Language, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1017/S0305000919000266
Even 3- to 5-year-olds know what typical dogs and fish look like — and they apply that knowledge when they hear new words. Researchers found that when children encounter new nouns, they use what they know about these objects to help them figure out what these words mean, a type of sophisticated reasoning thought to develop much later. The researchers coined this tactic the "blowfish effect." If children see a blowfish (or a greyhound or an unusual tropical flower) and learn a new word to go with it, they will assume it refers to that specific type of object and not the broader category of fish (or dogs or flowers). These findings run counter to the idea that children will always assume that new words should be interpreted as general terms.
A Multicomponent, Preschool to Third Grade Preventive Intervention and Educational Attainment at 35 Years of Age
Reynolds AJ, Ou S, Temple JA. A Multicomponent, Preschool to Third Grade Preventive Intervention and Educational Attainment at 35 Years of Age. JAMA Pediatrics. Published online January 29, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.4673
Students who participated in an intensive childhood education program from preschool to third grade were more likely to achieve an academic degree beyond high school, compared to a similar group that received other intervention services as children, with greater benefits for those whose mothers were high school dropouts. Researchers at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, followed the 30-year progress of 989 children who attended the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) program in inner-city Chicago as preschoolers. The CPC program provides intensive instruction in reading and math, combined with frequent educational field trips, from pre-kindergarten through third grade. The program also provides parents with job and parenting skills training, educational classes and social services. In addition, the program encouraged parents to volunteer in classrooms, assist with field trips and participate in parenting support groups.
Beyond the 30-Million-Word Gap: Children’s Conversational Exposure Is Associated With Language-Related Brain Function
Rachel R. Romeo, Julia A. Leonard, Sydney T. Robinson, Martin R. West, Allyson P. Mackey, Meredith L. Rowe, John D. E. Gabrieli. Beyond the 30-Million-Word Gap: Children’s Conversational Exposure Is Associated With Language-Related Brain Function. Psychological Science, February 14, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617742725
This study found that young 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds who engaged in more conversation at home had more brain activity and verbal aptitude while they were listening to a story and processing language. The hypothesis is that back-and-forth conversation may rewire the brain and cause it to grow — a hypothesis that will be tested in a future study. In the study, the benefits of conversation were just as strong for low-income children as they were for high-income children. Children who experienced high amounts of conversation scored 12 percent higher on standardized language assessments.
Reading Aloud, Play, and Social-Emotional Development
This study looked at the impacts on social-emotional development at school entry of a pediatric primary care intervention called the Video Interaction Project (VIP), promoting positive parenting through reading aloud and play, delivered in two phases: infant through toddler (VIP 0-3) and preschool-age (VIP 3-5). VIP 0-3 resulted in sustained impacts on behavior problems 1.5 years after program completion. VIP 3-5 had additional, independent impacts. The children whose families had participated in the intervention when they were younger were still less likely to manifest those behavior problems — aggression, hyperactivity, difficulty with attention. These results support the use of pediatric primary care to promote reading aloud and play from birth to 5 years, and the potential for such programs to enhance social-emotional development.
50-State Comparison: State Kindergarten-Through-Third-Grade Policies
50-State Comparison: State Kindergarten-Through-Third-Grade Policies (2018), Education Commission of the States: Denver, CO.
High-quality, early elementary years offer a critical opportunity for development and academic learning for all children. Key components of a quality, K-3 experience include kindergarten, qualified teachers, seamless transitions, appropriate assessments and interventions, family engagement, social-emotional supports and academic supports. This report from the Education Commission of the States researched the policies that guide these key components in all 50 states. The report provides a window into the myriad state policies created to support students through the critical early years of education.
What the Research Says About the Impact of Media on Children Aged 0-3 Years Old
Rachel Barr, Elisabeth McClure, and Rebecca Parlakian. What the Research Says About the Impact of Media on Children Aged 0-3 Years Old. October 25, 2018. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.
Developed in partnership with leading researchers in the field of media and young children, this report describes what is known at this time about the effect of screen media on young children’s learning and development. The report covers key topics related to children’s early learning and screen experiences, including: why very young children sometimes struggle to learn from screen media (the “transfer deficit”); the influence of parent screen use on children’s learning (“technoference”); key ingredients to consider when making media decisions for children (The “3 C’s”); and key components of screen media content that support early learning.
A Focus on Teaching and Learning in Pre-K through 2nd Grade: Lessons from Boston
Laura Bornfreund and Aaron Loewenberg (2018), A Focus on Teaching and Learning in Pre-K through 2nd Grade: Lessons from Boston. Washington, DC: New America.
This report explains the work that has taken place over the last decade in Boston to not only improve pre-K, but to build on the successes of pre-K through reform of classroom environments, instructional practices, and curricula in pre-K, kindergarten, and, more recently, in first and second grade. Reform happens from the bottom up; the work of increasing student achievement is not confined to a single grade, but requires sustained efforts to improve the grades that follow, efforts that persist despite multiple changes in district leadership. Research and data is used to drive continuous improvement. States and districts across the country can learn from these efforts to build on the gains made as a result of high-quality pre-K programs.
Let’s Chat: On-Screen Social Responsiveness Is Not Sufficient to Support Toddlers’ Word Learning From Video
Troseth, G. L., Strouse, G. A., Verdine, B. N., & Saylor, M. M. (2018). Let's Chat: On-Screen Social Responsiveness Is Not Sufficient to Support Toddlers' Word Learning From Video. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 2195. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02195
In this study, 176 toddlers in two age groups (24 months and 30 months) were charged with learning the name of a novel object and putting it in a bin. They were studied under these four conditions: Responsive live: the person making the request was present and engaged with the child; Unresponsive video: the speaker on the screen looked at the camera and smiled at scripted times; Unresponsive live: although present, the speaker behaved as she did on the unresponsive video; and Responsive video: a speaker on closed-circuit video engaged with the child, just as they might on video chat. The researchers found that the toddlers in both age groups reliably learned the toy’s name in the responsive live condition, and older toddlers learned in the unresponsive live condition. But neither group learned in either of the video conditions. The researchers believe that’s because to toddlers, a flat image of a person on a screen isn’t “real,” so their brains tell them what they are seeing isn’t personally relevant and not something they can learn from. Even though video chat includes more communicative social cues and interaction than a nonresponsive video, the medium still was not sufficient to support learning in the study.
Unlocking ESSA's Potential to Support Early Learning
Bornfreund, L., Dichter, H., Calderon, M., and Garcia, A. Unlocking ESSA's Potential to Support Early Learning (March 2017). Boston, MA: BUILD Initiative and Washington, D.C: New America.
The authors offer an introduction to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA), exploring major provisions that have implications for our nation’s youngest learners — to enable the early childhood community to better understand how ESSA can be a resource. The new law both strengthens and expands allowable uses for early learning, birth through third grade. As with the previous version, it remains up to state and local authorities to decide whether to invest. This paper looks at key opportunities for state and local leaders in: Title I: Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged; Title II: Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Educators; Title III: Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students; and Title IX: Preschool Development Grants.
Invented spelling in kindergarten as a predictor of reading and spelling in Grade 1
This study evaluated whether the sophistication of children’s invented spellings in kindergarten was predictive of subsequent reading and spelling in Grade 1, while also considering the influence of well-known precursors. Children in their first year of schooling were assessed on measures of oral vocabulary, alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, word reading, and invented spelling; approximately one year later they were assessed on multiple measures of reading and spelling. The researchers found a direct line from invented spelling leading to improved reading scores at the end of first grade. The study suggests that invented spelling integrates phonological and orthographic growth and is a unique predictor of growth in early reading skills, over and above children’s alphabet knowledge and phonological awareness.
Literacy Achievement Trends at Entry to First Grade
Jerome V. D’Agostino, Emily Rodgers (March 1, 2017) Literacy Achievement Trends at Entry to First Grade. Educational Researcher Vol 46, Issue 2, pp. 78 - 89.
This nationwide study showed that children entering first grade in 2013 had significantly better reading skills than similar students had just 12 years earlier. Researchers say this means that in general, children are better readers at a younger age, but the study also revealed where gaps remain — especially in more advanced reading skills. In the four basic skills, low-achieving students narrowed the achievement gap with other readers. But in the two advanced skills — including actually reading text — the gap widened. The results also show that strategies to help preschoolers who are having trouble with language skills need to be adjusted.
The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects
The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects. Brooking Institution and the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy.
A Pre-Kindergarten Task Force of interdisciplinary scientists reviewed the evidence on the impact of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs, and what research can tell us about what works and what doesn’t. Among their key findings is that while all kids benefit from preschool, poor and disadvantaged kids often make the most gains. Children who are dual-language learners show relatively large benefits from pre-K education — both in their English-language proficiency and in other academic skills. Part of what may render a pre-K classroom advantageous for a poor student or a child learning English is the value of being immersed among a diverse array of classmates. Not all preschool programs are alike; features that may lead to success include a well implemented, evidence-based curriculum and an emphasis on the quality and continuous training of pre-K teachers.
Early Reading Matters: Long-term Impacts of Shared Bookreading with Infants and Toddlers on Language and Literacy Outcomes
Cates, Carolyn; Weisleder, Adriana; Dreyer, Benard; Johnson, Matthew; Seery, Anne; Canfield, Caitlin F.; Berkule Johnson, Samantha; and Mendelsohn, Alan L. Reading with children starting in infancy gives lasting literacy boost: Shared book-reading that begins soon after birth may translate into higher language and vocabulary skills before elementary school. (May 2017) American Academy of Pediatrics.
This research study shows that reading books with a child beginning in early infancy can boost vocabulary and reading skills four years later, before the start of elementary school. Book-reading quality during early infancy, in particular, predicted early reading skills while book-reading quantity and quality during toddler years appeared strongly tied to later emergent literacy skills, such as name-writing at age 4. The results highlight the importance of parenting programs used in pediatric primary care that promote shared book-reading soon after birth, such as Read Out and Read.
Do academic preschools yield stronger benefits? Cognitive emphasis, dosage, and early learning
Bruce Fuller, Edward Bein, Margaret Bridges, Yoonjeon Kim, Sophia Rabe-Hesketh, Do academic preschools yield stronger benefits? Cognitive emphasis, dosage, and early learning, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Volume 52, September–October 2017, p. 1-11, ISSN 0193-3973, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2017.05.001.
This study found that preschools that focus on academics provide substantial gains to black students from low-income families, as well as benefits to students from middle-class families. The study defined an academic-oriented preschool as one where teachers "focus time on classroom activities that foster oral language, preliteracy, and math skills." The researchers followed a nationally representative sample of 6,150 children born in 2001 from birth to age 5 and found that the benefits of attending a preschool that focused on academics carried on through kindergarten. Students who began attending preschool between the ages of 2 and 3 received more benefits than children who starting attending at age 4. It also found that the amount of time spent in preschool each week mattered. Black children received substantial benefits from attending a full-day program, while white students received the same benefits from a half-day.
The Impact of Transitional Kindergarten on California Students
Karen Manship et al. The Impact of Transitional Kindergarten on California Students: Final Report from the Study of California's Transitional Kindergarten Program (June 2017). Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research.
This study revealed that California students who attended transitional kindergarten were more engaged in the learning process and better prepared for math and reading when they entered kindergarten than children who did not. Transitional kindergarten helps to improve the language development of English Learners and math skills for low-income students, which includes problem solving and symbol recognition.Transitional kindergarten students recognized more letters and words and had a better understanding of phonetic sounds and vocabulary when entering kindergarten.
Early home learning environment predicts children’s 5th grade academic skills
Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Rufan Luo, Karen E. McFadden, Eileen T. Bandel & Claire Vallotton. Early home learning environment predicts children’s 5th grade academic skills. Applied Developmental Science (August 2017) http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2017.1345634
Researchers from New York University studied more than 2,200 families enrolled in the Early Head Start Research Evaluation Project. They followed children from birth through 5th grade to determine the impact of early home-learning environments on later academic success. All of the children in the study came from low-income, ethnically diverse families. The researchers found that children whose parents engaged them in meaningful conversations and provided them with books and toys designed to increase learning were much more likely to develop early cognitive skills that led to later academic success. Children with a father in the home, adult parents versus teenage parents, and more-educated parents tended to have better environments for early learning.These findings were true across all ethnic/racial groups studied.
Relationships Between Home Literacy Practices and School Achievement: Implications for Consultation and Home–School Collaboration
Nicole Lynn Alston-Abel and Virginia Berninger. Relationships Between Home Literacy Practices and School Achievement: Implications for Consultation and Home–School Collaboration. Journal of Psychological and Educational Consultation, p 1-26, May 23, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10474412.2017.1323222
In a 5-year longitudinal study of typical literacy development (Grades 1–5 or 3–7), relationships were examined between (a) parental responses to questionnaires about home literacy activities and ratings of children’s self-regulation at home, both completed annually by the same parent, and (b) children’s reading and writing achievement assessed annually at the university. Higher reading and writing achievement correlated with engaging in more home literacy activities. Parental help or monitoring of home literacy activities was greater for low-achieving than for high-achieving readers or writers. Children engaged more minutes per week in reading than writing activities at home, but parents provided more help with writing and reported computers were used more for homework than for school literacy instruction. Parental ratings of self-regulation of attention remained stable, but executive functions — goal-setting, hyperactivity, and impulsivity — tended to improve. Results are translated into consultation tips for literacy learning and best professional practices.
Impacts of Early Childhood Education on Medium- and Long-Term Educational Outcomes
Dana Charles McCoy, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest, Greg J. Duncan, Holly S. Schindler, Katherine Magnuson, Rui Yang, Andrew Koepp, Jack P. Shonkoff. Impacts of Early Childhood Education on Medium- and Long-Term Educational Outcomes. Educational Researcher, Vol 46, Issue 8, pp. 474 - 487. First Published November 15, 2017.
Despite calls to expand early childhood education (ECE) in the United States, questions remain regarding its medium- and long-term impacts on educational outcomes. Researchers used meta-analysis of 22 studies conducted between 1960 and 2016 to find that on average, participation in ECE leads to statistically significant reductions in special education placement and grade retention and increases in high school graduation rates. These results support ECE’s utility for reducing education-related expenditures and promoting child well-being. The findings contrast with other research, such as on the federal Head Start program and on Tennessee's preschool program, that have found that the behavioral and academic benefits of those programs fade over time. The Head Start and Tennessee studies, however, examined child outcomes a few years into participants' elementary school years. This analysis took a longer view; many of the studies tracked children into high school and beyond.
Bringing Literacy Home: An Evaluation of the Every Child Ready to Read Program
Susan B. Neuman, Naomi Moland, and Donna Celano. Bringing Literacy Home: An Evaluation of the Every Child Ready to Read Program (November, 2017). Chicago: Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Public Library Association (PLA)
This study revealed that libraries are taking a proactive approach toward engaging parents and caregivers supporting the early literacy development of their children, and the Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) @ your library Program is an effective tool to ensure libraries’ success. Currently more than 6,000 libraries have invested in the ECRR Toolkit, which is used to implement ECRR in the library. ECRR is based on two core concepts: reading begins at birth, and parents are a child’s first and best teacher. The researchers observed significantly greater engagement of parents and caregivers in the libraries that used the ECRR program: these libraries offered more opportunities for parents and children to interact, more parents-only workshops, and more diverse program offerings.
Parent Engagement Practices Improve Outcomes for Preschool Children
Bierman, K., Morris P., and Abenavoli R. Parent Engagement Practices Improve Outcomes for Preschool Children (February 2017). Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Children begin learning at home before they ever reach the classroom, but many families face barriers to providing high-quality early educational opportunities. This study outlines a number of research-based strategies to bolster parent engagement in ways that improve child outcomes. Two key findings: (2) Promoting home learning activities and effective teaching strategies can foster early learning and improve school readiness; and (2) Strengthening parent-teacher partnerships can boost academic and social-emotional skill development and promote academic success.
Child and Parenting Outcomes After 1 Year of Educare
Yazejian, N., Bryant, D. M., Hans, S., Horm, D., St. Clair, L., File, N. and Burchinal, M. (February 8, 2017), Child and Parenting Outcomes After 1 Year of Educare. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12688
Educare is a birth to age 5 early education program designed to reduce the achievement gap between children from low-income families and their more economically advantaged peers through high-quality center-based programming and strong school–family partnerships. This study randomly assigned 239 children (< 19 months) from low-income families to Educare or a business-as-usual control group. Assessments tracked children 1 year after randomization. Results revealed significant differences favoring treatment group children on auditory and expressive language skills, parent-reported problem behaviors, and positive parent–child interactions. Effect sizes were in the modest to medium range. No effects were evident for observer-rated child behaviors or parent-rated social competence. The overall results add to the evidence that intervening early can set low-income children on more positive developmental courses.
The Best Teachers for Our Littlest Learners? Lessons from Head Start's Last Decade
Kaplan, M. and Mead, S. The Best Teachers for Our Littlest Learners? Lessons from Head Start's Last Decade. (2017) Bellwether Education Partners: Washington, D.C.
This paper traces the evolution of Head Start Workforce policies over 50 years and detail how shifts in the broader early childhood landscape, especially state-funded pre-k programs, have influenced these policies. Based on this analysis, the authors make five recommendations: (1) Provide equitable compensation and benefits to Head Start teachers; (2) Include Head Start in state initiatives to build the early childhood workforce; (3) Develop systemic approaches to improve preparation for early childhood teachers; (4) Continue to support high-quality, ongoing, job-embedded professional development for Head Start teachers; and (5) Make Head Start a vehicle for promoting innovation in early childhood teacher preparation, support, and development.
PK-3: What Does it Mean for Instruction?
Stipek, D., Clements, D., Coburn, C., Franke, M. and Farran, D. PK-3: What Does it Mean for Instruction? Social Policy Report 30:2 (2017). Ann Arbor, MI: Society for Research in Child Development.
PK–3 has become a rallying cry among many developmental scientists and educators. A central component of this movement is alignment between preschool and the early elementary grades. Many districts have made policy changes designed to promote continuity in children's educational experiences as they progress from preschool through third grade — to provide children with a seamless education that will sustain the gains made in preschool and lead to better developmental and learning outcomes overall. This report addresses the issues facing school districts seeking to promote continuity in children’s educational experiences as they progress from preschool through third grade in hopes of providing a seamless education that sustains gains made in preschool and leads to better developmental and learning outcomes. The report considers ways in which schools might seek to achieve continuity in parents’ and children’s experiences and proposes specific state and district policies and school practices to promote continuous and meaningful learning opportunities.
Kids Today: The Rise in Children’s Academic Skills at Kindergarten Entry
Bassock, D. and Latham, S. Kids Today: The Rise in Children’s Academic Skills at Kindergarten Entry. Educational Researcher Vol. XX No. X, pp. 1-14 (February 2017). Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association.
Private and public investments in early childhood education have expanded significantly in recent years. Despite this heightened investment, we have little empirical evidence on whether children today enter school with different skills than they did in the late nineties. Using two large, nationally representative data sets, this article documents how students entering kindergarten in 2010 compare to those who entered in 1998 in terms of their teacher-reported math, literacy, and behavioral skills. Our results indicate that students in the more recent cohort entered kindergarten with stronger math and literacy skills. Results for behavioral outcomes were mixed. Increases in academic skills over this period were particularly pronounced among Black children. Implications for policy are discussed.
A Randomized Control Trial of a Statewide Voluntary Prekindergarten Program on Children's Skills and Behaviors through Third Grade
Lipsey, M.W., Farran, D.C., & Hofer, K.G. (2015) A Randomized Control Trial of a Statewide Voluntary Prekindergarten Program on Children's Skills and Behaviors through Third Grade (Research Report). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University, Peabody Research Institute.
A multi-year study Tennessee's prekindergarten program for children from low-income families shows that children started off school strong, but by kindergarten were generally indistinguishable academically from comparable peers who did not enroll in the program. By 3rd grade the children who attended pre-K were performing worse on some academic and behavioral measures than similar classmates who were never in the program. Both groups — the children who attended the Tennessee program, as well as the children who did not — were lagging behind national norms. All the children in the study come from low-income families and often attend low-performing public schools that may experience high student mobility, difficulty recruiting and retaining high-performing teachers, and insufficient resources to build on any pre-K gains. The quality of the individual prekindergarten classrooms may also be a factor in why the children performed so poorly in the tests, researchers said.
Young Children's Knowledge of the Symbolic Nature of Writing
Treiman, R., Hompluem, L., Gordon, J., Decker, K. and Markson, L. (2016), Young Children's Knowledge of the Symbolic Nature of Writing. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12478.
This research study shows that even before learning their ABCs, youngsters start to recognize that a written word symbolizes language in a way a drawing doesn't — a developmental step on the path to reading. Two experiments with one hundred and fourteen 3- to 5-year-old children examined whether children understand that a printed word represents a specific spoken word and that it differs in this way from a drawing. When an experimenter read a word to children and then a puppet used a different but related label for it, such as “dog” for the word ‹puppy›, children often stated the puppet's label was incorrect. In an analogous task with drawings, children were more likely to state that the puppet was correct in using an alternative label. The results suggest that even young children who cannot yet read have some understanding that a written word stands for a specific linguistic unit in a way that a drawing does not.
Examining Teacher Effectiveness Between Preschool and Third Grade
Herzfeldt-Kamprath, R. and Ullrich, R. (January 2016). Examining Teacher Effectiveness Between Preschool and Third Grade. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress.
This report examines the consistency of children’s access to effective teachers between preschool and third grade—as well as how that access differs by a child’s race/ethnicity and socio-economic status — within three broad factors of teacher effectiveness: qualifications, attitudes, and environment. The analyses presented utilize two nationally representative data sets: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort, or ECLS-B, and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11, or ECLS-K: 2011. Results support that the factors that contribute to effective teaching are inherently interconnected and typically accessed at lower rates by African American and Hispanic children, as well as children from low-income households. Furthermore, access to effective teachers varies between the prekindergarten year and the kindergarten through third, or K-3, grades because the standards, expectations, and supports for teachers are different for these two systems. The authors offer policy suggestions to improve Prer-K to Grade 3 alignment and access to quality teachers.
How Much Can High-Quality Universal Pre-K Reduce Achievement Gaps?
Friedman-Krauss, A.; Barnett, W.S.; and Nores, M. (April 5, 2016) How Much Can High-Quality Universal Pre-K Reduce Achievement Gaps? Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress.
The study, conducted by the National Institutes for Early Education Research, determined that universal high-quality preschool could reduce the achievement gap at kindergarten entry in math by 78 percent for Hispanic students and 45 percent for African-American students. The gap in reading would be virtually eliminated for both groups, the analysis found. Students from low-income families would also close the gap with higher-income families by 27 percent in math and 41 percent in reading. Establishing a high-quality universal pre-K program is a critical first step toward creating equity in access to early education and ensuring that all children begin kindergarten with an equal opportunity to succeed.
2014-15 Study of Mississippi Teacher Preparation for Early Literacy Instruction
Barksdale Reading Institute (March 2015). 2014-15 Study of Mississippi Teacher Preparation for Early Literacy Instruction. Oxford, MS: Barksdale Reading Institute and The Institutions of Higher Learning.
The study led to nine key findings, including an improved level of emphasis on the five essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The study also highlights a serious gap in the understanding and application of evidence-based practices for early reading instruction both in teacher preparation and in K-3 field experiences. The report culminated in several major recommendations: (1) Adopt research-based practices at every level of reading education (specifically those practices endorsed by the National Reading Panel); (2) Improve P-20 educator knowledge and communications to better inform policy; (3) Repurpose the state’s Reading Panel to include educators and literacy experts from all levels of the system to oversee the credentialing of undergraduate instructors assigned to teach early literacy courses.
Integrating Technology in Early Literacy: A Snapshot of Community Innovation in Family Engagement
Cook, S. (July 2016) Integrating Technology in Early Literacy: A Snapshot of Community Innovation in Family Engagement. Washington, D.C.: New America.
As a growing number of young children across the country are using media and interactive technology on a daily basis, the conversation has shifted from whether technology is appropriate to use at all to how it should be used to best support children’s early language and literacy development. This brief analyzes the impact of early learning and family engagement programs around the country. The Integrating Technology in Early Literacy (InTEL) map, available through New America’s Atlas tool, has been updated to show where innovative programs are located, how the programs are designed, and what “evidence of impact” they are able to share.
Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction: A Literature Review
Drummond, K., Holod, A., Perrot, M., Wang, A., Munoz-Miller, M., and Turner, H. (August 2016) Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction: A Literature Review. Washington, D.C.: American Institutes for Research. Prepared for: Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education.
This literature review provides a summary of policies, programs, and practices that have the potential to help students sustain the positive effects of preschool as they progress from kindergarten through grade. The review focuses on two specific approaches: (1) preschool and K–3 alignment, and (2) differentiated instruction in kindergarten and first grade.
Book Deserts: The Consequences of Income Segregation on Children’s Access to Print
Neumann, S.B. and Moland, N. Book Deserts: The Consequences of Income Segregation on Children’s Access to Print, Urban Education, July 5, 2016 doi:10.1177/0042085916654525
Researchers examine the influence of income segregation on a resource vital to young children’s development: a family’s access to books in early childhood. Income segregation reflects the growing economic segregation of neighborhoods for people living in privilege (1%) compared with those in poverty or near-poverty (20%). After describing recent demographic shifts, we examine access to print for children in six urban neighborhoods. Results indicate stark disparities in access to print for those living in concentrated poverty. We argue that such neighborhoods constitute “book deserts,” which may seriously constrain young children’s opportunities to come to school “ready to learn.”
The effects of Tulsa’s CAP Head Start program on middle-school academic outcomes and progress.
This study presents evidence pertinent to current debates about the lasting impacts of early childhood educational interventions and, specifically, Head Start. A group of students who were first studied to examine the immediate impacts of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Community Action Project (CAP) Head Start program were followed-up in middle school, primarily as 8th graders. Using ordinary least squares and logistic regressions with a rich set of controls and propensity score weighting models to account for differential selection into Head Start, we compared students who had attended the CAP Head Start program and enrolled in the Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) as kindergarteners with children who also attended TPS kindergarten but had attended neither CAP Head Start nor the TPS pre-K program as 4-year-olds. CAP Head Start produced significant positive effects on achievement test scores in math and on both grade retention and chronic absenteeism for middle-school students as a whole; positive effects for girls on grade retention and chronic absenteeism; for white students on math test scores; for Hispanic students on math test scores and chronic absenteeism, and for students eligible for free lunches on math test scores, grade retention, and chronic absenteeism. We conclude that the Tulsa CAP Head Start program produced significant and consequential effects into the middle school years.
Recent Trends in Income, Racial, and Ethnic School Readiness Gaps at Kindergarten Entry
This study found that low-income kindergarten students have reversed the trend of growing academic achievement gaps between them and their higher-income peers. Academic achievement gaps grew from the 1970s to the 1990s, but from 1998 to 2010 the gaps shrank 10-16%. During this time frame, the White-Hispanic kindergarten readiness gap and the White-Black gap each dropped. Researchers attributed the improved preparedness, in part, to low-income parents spending significantly more time reading to their children, taking them to museums, and introducing them to educational games on computers. Despite the narrowing of these readiness gaps, they remain large and, in fact, progress is so slow that at the rate that improvements are occurring, it will take at least 60 years for disparities to be eliminated.
Impact of North Carolina's Early Childhood Programs and Policies on Educational Outcomes in Elementary School
Dodge, K. A., Bai, Y., Ladd, H. F. and Muschkin, C. G. (2016), Impact of North Carolina's Early Childhood Programs and Policies on Educational Outcomes in Elementary School. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12645
Researchers studied nearly 1 million North Carolina students who attended state-funded early childhood programs between 1995 and 2010, and followed them through fifth grade. The study found that early childhood programs in that state resulted in higher test scores, a lower chance of being held back in a grade, and a fewer number of children with special education placements. Effect sizes grew or held steady across years. Positive effects held for both high- and low-poverty families, suggesting spillover of effects to nonparticipating peers. When the researchers broke the students down into subgroups by race and income, they found that all of those groups showed gains that held over time.
The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program
Garcia, J.L., Heckman, J.J., Leaf, D.E., and Prados, M.J. The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program white paper (December 11, 2016). University of Chicago, Department of Economics: Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group (HCEO).
This paper estimates the large array of long-run benefits of an influential early childhood program that worked with children from infancy to age 5, targeted to disadvantaged children and their families. The researchers studied the effects of the 1970s-era Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC) and a largely similar project called Carolina Approach to Responsive Education, jointly referred to as ABC/CARE. The cost of the ABC/CARE interventions were substantial — an estimated $18,500 per child per year in 2014 dollars. But the rate of return for ABC/CARE was about 13 percent when researchers looked at the participants' improved health, IQ, education, and decreases in their involvement in crime, as well as the increased labor participation of the mothers whose children were a part of the program.
State(s) of Head Start
Barnett, W.S. and Friedman-Krauss, A.H. (December 2016) State(s) of Head Start. The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
State(s) of Head Start is the first report to describe and analyze in detail Head Start enrollment, funding, quality, and duration, state-by-state. The report focuses on the 2014-2015 program year but also provides longitudinal data beginning with the 2006-2007 program year. Despite the fact that Head Start is a federally funded, national program, the report reveals that access to Head Start programs, funding per child, teacher education, quality of teaching, and duration of services all vary widely by state. This report’s findings underscore the need for greater coordination between Head Start and state and local government agencies to build high-quality early learning programs with widespread reach and adequate funding. The authors call for an independent bipartisan national commission to study the issues raised in this report and develop an action plan to ensure every eligible child in every state has an equal opportunity to benefit from Head Start.
Case Studies of Schools Implementing Early Elementary Strategies: Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, Case Studies of Schools Implementing Early Elementary Strategies: Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction, Washington, DC, 2016.
To explore how educators might build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool, this study examined two types of strategies that preliminary literature searches revealed as promising practices to support children’s learning in early elementary school: (1) aligning instruction from preschool through grade 3 (referred to as P–3 alignment) and (2) differentiated instruction. To explore how educators use these two strategies, this study conducted a systematic literature review followed by case studies of five programs that used one or both of these two strategies. Key findings: (1) All five case study programs aligned instruction across grades by aligning or coordinating standards, curricula, instructional practices, and professional development; three sites also used aligned assessments. (2) Common elements of P–3 programs included the use of professional learning communities, coaches, parent engagement, and play-based or student-initiated learning. (3) Teachers in all five programs reported using strategies to accommodate students’ different skill levels, including modifying assignments, adapting learning materials, providing different levels of support, or using small-group instruction. (4) All five programs focused on increasing students’ vocabulary, oral language, and social-emotional skills.
Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Initiatives on Special Education Placements in Third Grade
Muschkin, C., Ladd, H., Dodge, K. (February 2015). Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Initiatives on Special Education Placements in Third Grade . Washington, D.C.: CALDER: National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.
This study examined the community-wide effects of investments in two early childhood initiatives in North Carolina (Smart Start and More at Four) on the likelihood of a student being placed into special education. The researchers took advantage of variation across North Carolina counties and years in the timing of the introduction and funding levels of the two programs to identify their effects on third-grade outcomes. They found that both programs significantly reduce the likelihood of special education placement in the third grade, resulting in considerable cost savings to the state. The effects of the two programs differ across categories of disability, but do not vary significantly across subgroups of children identified by race, ethnicity, and maternal education levels.
Oral Narrative Skills: Explaining the Language-Emergent Literacy Link by Race/Ethnicity and SES
Gardner-Neblett, N., & Iruka, I. U. (2015). Oral narrative skills: Explaining the language-emergent literacy link by race/ethnicity and SES. Developmental Psychology, 51, 889-904.
This study uses the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to explore how language at age 2 is associated with narrative skills at age 4 and emergent literacy outcomes at age 5 for a nationally representative sample of children. This study is the first to demonstrate the connection between African American preschoolers’ oral storytelling abilities and the development of their early reading skills. Previous research suggests that African American children are skilled in telling complex narratives of many different types, which may provide clues to the new study’s findings. Oral story telling has been an important part of the histories of many peoples—and an especially rich aspect of the black culture across the African diaspora. The findings suggest the importance of recognizing and capitalizing on storytelling skills to help young African American children with their early reading development.
The Words Children Hear: Picture Books and the Statistics for Language Learning
Jessica L. Montag, Michael N. Jones, and Linda B. Smith. The Words Children Hear: Picture Books and the Statistics for Language Learning, Psychological Science 0956797615594361, August 4, 2015.
Young children learn language from the speech they hear. Previous work suggests that greater statistical diversity of words and of linguistic contexts is associated with better language outcomes. One potential source of lexical diversity is the text of picture books that caregivers read aloud to children. In this study, researchers looked at the language content of 100 popular picture books. In comparing the language in books to the language used by parents talking to their children, the researchers found that the picture books contained more “unique word types.” The text of picture books may be an important source of vocabulary for young children, and these findings suggest a mechanism that underlies the language benefits associated with reading to children.
Home Reading Environment and Brain Activation in Preschool Children Listening to Stories
John S. Hutton, Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus, Alan L. Mendelsohn, Tom DeWitt, Scott K. Holland. Home Reading Environment and Brain Activation in Preschool Children Listening to Stories, , August 10, 2015. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-0359
Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to study brain activity in 3-to 5-year-old children as they listened to age-appropriate stories. The researchers found differences in brain activation according to how much the children had been read to at home. Children whose parents reported more reading at home and more books in the home showed significantly greater activation of brain areas in a region of the left hemisphere called the parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex. This brain area supports mental imagery and narrative comprehension. Children who were exposed to more books and home reading showed significantly more activity in the areas of the brain that process visual association, even though the child was in the scanner just listening to a story and could not see any pictures.
Print-related practices in low-income Latino homes and preschoolers’ school-readiness outcomes
Schick, A.R., Melzi, G. Print-related practices in low-income Latino homes and preschoolers’ school-readiness outcomes, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, July 5, 2015. doi: 10.1177/1468798415592009
This study examined literacy practices in the homes of 127 low-income Latino preschoolers enrolled in bilingual preschool classrooms. Researchers investigated the print-related practices that Latino primary caregivers engaged in with their preschool-aged children at the start of the school year and explored the relation between these practices and children’s language, literacy, and social–emotional school-readiness outcomes at the end of the preschool year. The results demonstrate the importance of print – including books and non-book-related environmental print – for Latino preschool children’s development of early literacy and self-regulation skills. In addition, the results highlight that when sharing picture books with their children, low-income Latino caregivers provided the majority of the information to their children, and ask few questions of them, thereby adopting a sole-narrator participatory role.
Building Strong Readers in Minnesota
Lieberman, A., Bornfreund, L. Building Strong Readers in Minnesota: PreK-3rd Grade Policies That Support Children's Literacy Development (September 2015). New America Foundation: Washington, D.C.
An examination of state policies and local initiatives in Minnesota that aim to improve literacy outcomes for all students by shaping their learning trajectories from a young age. Intentional alignment of education systems from pre-K and into the early grades of elementary school — a ‘PreK–3rd grade’ framework — can help narrow opportunity and achievement gaps. In this report, the researchers explore how Minnesota’s early learning policies are helping or hindering the ability of school districts, schools, and teachers to ensure that all children are on track to read on grade level by the end of third grade.
24-Month-Old Children With Larger Oral Vocabularies Display Greater Academic and Behavioral Functioning at Kindergarten Entry
Morgan, P. L., Farkas, G., Hillemeier, M. M., Hammer, C. S. and Maczuga, S. (2015), 24-Month-Old Children With Larger Oral Vocabularies Display Greater Academic and Behavioral Functioning at Kindergarten Entry. Child Development, 86: 1351–1370. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12398
Data were analyzed from a population-based, longitudinal sample of 8,650 U.S. children to (a) identify factors associated with or predictive of oral vocabulary size at 24 months of age and (b) evaluate whether oral vocabulary size is uniquely predictive of academic and behavioral functioning at kindergarten entry. Children from higher socioeconomic status households, females, and those experiencing higher quality parenting had larger oral vocabularies. Children born with very low birth weight or from households where the mother had health problems had smaller oral vocabularies. Even after extensive covariate adjustment, 24-month-old children with larger oral vocabularies displayed greater reading and mathematics achievement, increased behavioral self-regulation, and fewer externalizing and internalizing problem behaviors at kindergarten entry.
The Power of a Good Idea: How the San Francisco School District Is Building a PreK-3rd Grade Bridge
Nyhan, P. (2015). The power of a good idea: How the San Francisco school district is building a prek-3rd grade bridge. Washington, DC: New America Foundation.
This report tells the story of the San Francisco Unified School District's transformative shift to a PreK-3rd grade approach in an effort to shrink the achievement gap. The district rethought its approach to PreK-3 by strengthening its public pre-K program, aligning curricula, professional development, assessments, and even classroom layouts. The district's successes and struggles over the last six years have much to teach other school districts in California and around the nation.
Getting a Read on the App Stores : A Market Scan and Analysis of Children’s Literacy Apps
Vaala, S., Ly, A., Levine, M.H. (2015) Getting a read on the app stores: A market scan and analysis of children’s literacy apps. New York, NY: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
In 2014, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and New America conducted a scan of the market for language and literacy apps targeted for young children in the Apple, Google Play, and Amazon app stores. This 2015 report analyzes the descriptions of the apps as well as their content to learn more about what parents are likely to encounter as they search for educational apps for their young children. The report covers recent trends and surfaces some recommendations for developers who are creating apps for children, as well as for parents and teachers looking for quality apps to teach foundational language and literacy skills to young children.
From Crawling to Walking: Ranking States on Birth-3rd Grade Policies that Support Strong Readers
Bornfreund, L., Cook, S., Lieberman, A., and Loewenberg, A. (November 2015) From Crawling to Walking: Ranking States on Birth-3rd Grade Policies that Support Strong Readers. Washington, D.C.: New America Foundation.
This comprehensive report ranks states on 65 policy indicators in seven policy areas that promote strong literacy skills by the end of third grade. States are grouped into one of three categories that indicate the relative strength of their policies and programs across all seven policy areas combined and within each individual policy area. The report evaluates states’ third grade reading laws on eight criteria related to assessment, intervention, communication with parents, and retention. At the time of this report, only six states stand out due to their promising third grade reading laws: New York, Virginia, Minnesota, Texas, Utah, and Colorado.
Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play With the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication
Researchers gave families three different kinds of toys to play with: books, traditional toys like stacking blocks and a shape sorter, and electronic toys. Results indicated that play with electronic toys is associated with decreased quantity and quality of language input compared with play with books or traditional toys. To promote early language development, play with electronic toys should be discouraged. Traditional toys may be a valuable alternative for parent-infant play time if book reading is not a preferred activity. Blocks and puzzles stimulated more conversation than the electronic toys, and books outscored them all.
Early Grade Teacher Effectiveness and Pre-K Effect Persistence
The researchers utilized data from a public pre-K evaluation in Tennessee, matched with school administrative records and data from a new teacher evaluation program, to examine the interaction between pre-K participation and a factor that is as elusive to measure as it is universally accepted as vital to student outcomes — teaching quality. The researchers found that students who had attended a state-funded preschool and subsequently had a highly rated 1st grade teacher performed better than children who had a highly rated teacher, but did not attend a state-supported preschool. Analyses indicate a small positive interaction between teaching quality and state pre-K exposure on some but not all early elementary cognitive measures, such that better teaching quality in years subsequent to pre-K is associated with more persistent positive pre-K effects.
Fathers' Language Input During Shared Book Activities: Links to Children's Kindergarten Achievement
Baker, C. E., Vernon-Feagans, L., & the Family Life Project Investigators. (2015) Fathers' language input during shared book activities: Links to children's kindergarten achievement. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 36, 53-59.
How much fathers talk to young children has a direct positive effect on their kindergarten performance. This study used data from the Family Life Project to examine predictive relations between fathers' and mothers' language input during a wordless picture book task in the home just before kindergarten entry and children's letter — word identification, picture vocabulary, and applied problems scores at the end of kindergarten. Analysis revealed that mothers' talk ("mean length of utterance") predicted children's applied problems scores. More importantly, fathers' mean length of utterance predicted children's vocabulary and applied problems scores above and beyond mothers' language. Findings highlight the unique contribution of fathers to children's early academic achievement. Implications for future research, practice, and policy are discussed.
Differing Cognitive Trajectories of Mexican American Toddlers: The Role of Class, Nativity, and Maternal Practices
Fuller, B., Bein, E., Kim, Y., and Rabe-Hesketh, S. (2015) Differing Cognitive Trajectories of Mexican American Toddlers: The Role of Class, Nativity, and Maternal Practices, Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 20 February 2015.
This study revealed that Latino toddlers whose language comprehension is roughly similar to white peers at 9 months old fall significantly behind by the time they are two years old. The study found that four-fifths of the nation's Mexican American toddlers lagged three to five months behind whites in preliteracy skills, oral language and familiarity with print materials. Mothers of toddlers who fell behind were more likely to be foreign-born, low-income and less educated. They were also less likely to read to their children daily or give them as much praise and encouragement as those whose children kept pace with white peers.s. Although earlier studies have shown that Latino children are raised with emotional warmth and develop social skills on par with others when they enter kindergarten, the new research found they are not receiving sufficient language and literacy skills at home
Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation
Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies of Science (April 2015) Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Washington, DC
Children are already learning at birth, and they develop and learn at a rapid pace in their early years. This provides a critical foundation for lifelong progress, and the adults who provide for the care and education of young children bear a great responsibility for these children’s health, development, and learning. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC) were commissioned to explore the implications of the science of child development for the professionals who work with children birth through age 8. In this report, the committee finds that much is known about what professionals who provide care and education for children need to know and be able to do and what professional learning supports they need. However, that knowledge is not fully reflected in the current capacities and practices of the workforce, the settings in which they work, the policies and infrastructure that set qualifications and provide professional learning, and the government and other funders who support and oversee these systems. The report offers recommendations to build a workforce that is unified by the foundation of the science of child development and early learning and the shared knowledge and competencies that are needed to provide consistent, high-quality support for the development and early learning of children from birth through age 8.
Literacy app improves school readiness in at-risk preschoolers
Neuman, S.B., New York University (April 19, 2015). Literacy app improves school readiness in at-risk preschoolers. Science Daily.
Using mobile apps in preschool classrooms may help improve early literacy skills and boost school readiness for low-income children. "Guided use of an educational app may be a source of motivation and engagement for children in their early years," said the study's author. "The purpose of our study was to examine if a motivating app could accelerate children's learning, which it did."
Auditory Processing in Noise: A Preschool Biomarker for Literacy
White-Schwoch T, Woodruff Carr K, Thompson EC, Anderson S, Nicol T, Bradlow AR, et al. (2015) Auditory Processing in Noise: A Preschool Biomarker for Literacy. PLoS Biol 13(7): e1002196.
This study suggests that the neural processing of consonants in noise plays a fundamental role in language development. Children who struggle to listen in noisy environments may struggle to make meaning of the language they hear on a daily basis, which can in turn set them at risk for literacy challenges. Evaluating the neural coding of speech in noise may provide an objective neurophysiological marker for these at-risk children, opening a door to early and specific interventions that may stave off a life spent struggling to read.
One Step at a Time: The Effects of an Early Literacy Text Messaging Program for Parents of Preschoolers
Benjamin N. York and Susanna Loeb (November 2014). One Step at a Time: The Effects of an Early Literacy Text Messaging Program for Parents of Preschoolers. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 20659.
In this study, researchers evaluated the effects of READY4K!, a text messaging program for parents of preschoolers designed to help them support their children’s literacy development. The program targets the behavioral barriers to good parenting by breaking down the complexity of parenting into small steps that are easy-to-achieve and providing continuous support for an entire school year. Results showed that READY4K! positively affected the extent to which parents engaged in home literacy activities with their children. Increases in parental activity at home and school translated into student learning gains in some areas of early literacy. The widespread use, low cost, and ease of scalability of text messaging make texting an attractive approach to supporting parenting practices.
Subprime Learning: Early Education in America Since the Great Recession
Guernsey, L., Bornfreund, L., MccCann, C., and Williams, C. Subprime Learning: Early Education in America Since the Great Recession, New American Foundation, January 21, 2014.
Starting with 2009 as our baseline, the authors examined objective indicators across the birth-through-eight age span that pertain to student achievement, family well-being, and funding. We also provide subjective but research-based assessments of policies for improving teaching and learning and the creation of more cohesive systems. The aim is to provide a clearer picture of where America stands today by highlighting what is improving, in stasis, in flux, imperiled, or ignored. While bright spots are visible in some states, funding has fluctuated wildly, millions of children still lack access to quality programs, the K–3 grades have received little attention, and achievement gaps in reading and math have widened between family income levels. Meanwhile, child poverty rates have shot up.
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability
Bassok, D. and Rorem, A. (2014). Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability. EdPolicy Works, University of Virginia.
Recent accounts suggest that accountability pressures have trickled down into the early elementary grades, and that kindergarten today is characterized by a heightened focus on academic skills. This paper documents substantial changes in kindergarten classrooms between 1998 and 2006, using two large nationally-representative data sets. Nearly all measures examined changed substantially over this period, and always in the direction consistent with a heightened academic focus. While in 1998, 31 percent of kindergarten teachers indicated that most children should learn to read in kindergarten, in 2006 65 percent of teachers agreed with this statement. Time on literacy rose by 25 percent from roughly 5.5 to 7 hours per week and exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education all dropped.
Same, Different and Diverse: Understanding Children Who Are English Language Learners
Bank Street College and Education Development Center, Inc. (2014) Same, Different and Diverse: Understanding Children Who Are English Language Learners, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness.
One third of the children enrolled in Early Head Start and Head Start are Dual Language Learners (DLLs). They are a diverse group who have different languages, experiences, strengths, and gifts. Recent research points out the similarities among ALL young children — those who are leaning one or several languages (e.g., children are born with natural capabilities for language and for learning); differences between children growing up with one language (monolinguals) and children who are DLLs (e.g., children may learn some ideas such as counting, in one of their languages but not the other); and diversity among children who are DLLs (e.g., individual differences of temperament, interests,etc.). Early Head Start and Head Start programs can best support the school readiness for Dual Language Learners when they understand each child's unique characteristics and needs.
Can Babies Learn to Read? A Randomized Trial of Baby Media
Neuman, Susan B.; Kaefer, Tanya; Pinkham, Ashley; Strouse, Gabrielle (2014) Can Babies Learn to Read? A Randomized Trial of Baby Media, Journal of Educational Psychology, Feb 24, 2014.
Targeted to children as young as 3 months old, there is a growing number of baby media products that claim to teach babies to read. This randomized controlled trial was designed to examine this claim by investigating the effects of a best-selling baby media product on reading development. One hundred and seventeen infants, ages 9 to 18 months, were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Children in the treatment condition received the baby media product, which included DVDs, word and picture flashcards, and word books to be used daily over a 7-month period; children in the control condition, business as usual. Examining a 4-phase developmental model of reading, we examined both precursor skills (such as letter name, letter sound knowledge, print awareness, and decoding) and conventional reading (vocabulary and comprehension) using a series of eye-tracking tasks and standardized measures. Results indicated that babies did not learn to read using baby media, despite some parents displaying great confidence in the program’s effectiveness.
The Magic of Words
Susan B. Neuman and Tanya S. Wright (Summer 2014) American Educator, Vol. 38, No. 2, American Federation of Teachers.
From the beginning of schooling, children from various socioeconomic groups differ greatly in their vocabulary knowledge; those from high-income families tend to know many more words than those from low-income ones. Research shows that certain practices for teaching vocabulary — an important building block for learning — such as making connections among words and repeatedly exposing students to content-related words, can accelerate young children's oral vocabulary development, regardless of family income.
Beyond "Subprime Learning": Accelerating Progress in Early Education
Laura Bornfreund, Clare McCann, Conor Williams, and Lisa Guernsey (July 2015). Beyond "Subprime Learning": Accelerating Progress in Early Education. Washington, D.C.: New America Foundation.
This report urges education policymakers to put more focus on teaching and learning in the early years and continue that work up through third grade. States and the federal government must do more to foster real teaching and learning, which means structuring policies to put a priority on promoting language-rich interactions between children and adults. The authors also proposes new policies related to Head Start, dual-language learners, elementary school principals, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).
Kindergartners' Skills at School Entry: An Analysis of the ECLS-K
Sara Bernstein, Jerry West, Rebecca Newsham, and Maya Reid (July 15, 2014) Kindergartners' Skills at School Entry: An Analysis of the ECLS-K Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.
Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 data set, this brief examines the school readiness and abilities of beginning kindergartners across several academic and behavioral areas and highlights those areas where attention before kindergarten might benefit all children, as well as help close the gaps between more- and less-advantaged children. The brief reports that 44 percent of children enter kindergarten with one or more risk factors based on their home environment; these risk factors are incrementally associated with lower school readiness scores for children than for those with no such circumstances; and despite an increase in programs to level the playing field by giving disadvantaged children opportunities for preschool education, these gaps persist.
Moving Beyond Screen Time: Redefining Developmentally Appropriate Technology for Use in Early Childhood Education
Lindsay Daugherty, Rafiq Dossani, Erin-Elizabeth Johnson, and Cameron Wright (October 2014) Moving Beyond Screen Time: Redefining Developmentally Appropriate Technology for Use in Early Childhood Education. Rand Corporation: Arlington, VA.
Conversations about what constitutes "developmentally appropriate" use of technology in early childhood education have, to date, focused largely on a single, blunt measure — screen time — that fails to capture important nuances, such as what type of media a child is accessing and whether technology use is taking place solo or with peers. Using screen time as the primary measure of developmentally appropriate use has become increasingly inappropriate as new technologies are ever more rapidly introduced and integrated into all aspects of life, and as we learn more about the potential benefits of technology. The authors challenge the traditional emphasis on screen time and discuss how to move toward a more comprehensive definition of developmentally appropriate technology use for young children.
Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight. Research-Based Guidelines for Screen Use for Children Under 3 Years Old
Lerner, C.; Barr, R. (2014) Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight. Research-Based Guidelines for Screen Use for Children Under 3 Years Old Zero to Three: Washington, D.C.
This resource—developed in partnership with leading researchers in the field of media and young children — describes what is known about the effect of screen media on young
children’s learning and development. Rich, interactive experiences between parent and child are the most beneficial for babies and toddlers. The report warns that many of the the "2-D" experiences provided by TV, tablets, and smartphones don't provide the kind of social interaction and real-world learning that proves especially beneficial to infants and toddlers — unless parents are engaged in that activity.
Association of a Full-Day vs Part-Day Preschool Intervention With School Readiness, Attendance, and Parent Involvement
Reynolds AJ, Richardson BA, Hayakawa M, et al. Association of a Full-Day vs Part-Day Preschool Intervention With School Readiness, Attendance, and Parent Involvement. Journal of the American Medical Association 2014; 312 (20): 2126-2134.
In an expansion of the Child-Parent Center Education Program (CPC) in Chicago, a full-day preschool intervention was associated with increased school readiness skills CPC is a school-based public program with strong evidence of benefits. Implemented in the Chicago Public Schools since 1967, the program provides comprehensive education and family services beginning in preschool. Cohort studies have found that participation has helped eliminate the achievement gap in school readiness and performance; reduced rates of child maltreatment, remedial education, and crime; and increased rates of high school graduation and economic well-being. Benefits exceed costs by a ratio of 7 to 1. A scale-up of the CPC program began in 2012 in more diverse communities. The model was revised to incorporate advances in teaching practices and family services and included the opening of full-day preschool classrooms in some sites.
The Joy and Power of Reading: A Summary of Research and Expert Opinion
Bridges, L. (2014) The Joy and Power of Reading: A Summary of Research and Expert Opinion. New York: Scholastic.
This summary of research and expert opinion highlights the importance of reading volume, stamina and independent reading and how that builds comprehension, background knowledge, vocabulary and fluency skills. The report also discusses the value of reader choice and variety in developing motivation and confidence; guided reading and interactive read alouds in schools; and reading aloud plus talk at home.
Technology in Early Education: Building Platforms for Connections and Content that Strengthen Families and Promote Success in School
Guernsey, L. (2012). technology in early education: Building platforms for connections and content that strengthen families and promote success in school. The Progress of Education Reform, 14(4), 7-14.
This report looks at trends in digital media use by young children, how to effectively use parents and librarians as partners in early learning, and recommendations for building integrated technology platforms for early education.
Effects of Reading to Infants and Toddlers on Their Early Language Development
Dunst, Carl J.; Simkus, Andrew; Hamby, Deborah W. (2012). Effects of Reading to Infants and Toddlers on Their Early Language Development. CELLreviews 5(4), Asheville, NC: Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute.
The effects of reading to infants and toddlers were examined in a meta-analysis of six intervention studies including 408 participants. Results indicated that interventions were effective in promoting the children's expressive and receptive language. The benefits of the interventions increased the earlier the interventions were started and the longer they were implemented. Implications of the findings for research and practice are described.
Children's Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy
Dunst, C, Simkus, A, Hamby, D. (2012). Children's Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy. CELLreviews 5(4). Asheville, NC: Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute, Center for Early Literacy Learning.
The effects of children's story retelling on early literacy and language development was examined in a meta-analysis of 11 studies including 687 toddlers and preschoolers. Results indicated that children's story retelling influenced both story-related comprehension and expressive vocabulary as well as nonstory-related receptive language and early literacy development. Findings also showed that the use of the characteristics that experts consider the important features of retelling practices was associated with positive child outcomes. Implications for practice are described.
Early Executive Function Predicts Reasoning Development
Richland, L. E., & Burchinal, M. R. (2013). Early Executive Function Predicts Reasoning Development. Psychological Science, 24, 87-92.
New research findings from the University of Chicago and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill demonstrate that children begin to show signs of higher-level thinking skills as early as 4.5 years of age. Using large-scale longitudinal data from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development study, the authors examined tests children took at age 4.5, when they were in first grade, third grade, and at age 15. Findings showed a strong relationship between high scores among children who, as preschoolers, had strong vocabularies and were good at monitoring and controlling their responses (executive function) to later ability on tests of understanding analogies. Research suggests that executive function may be trainable through pathways such as preschool curriculum, exercise, and impulse control training.
Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study: Fifth Grade Follow-Up
Barnett, W.S., Jung, K., Youn, M. J. & Frede, E.C. (2013) Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study: Fifth Grade Follow-Up. National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers — The State University of New Jersey.
Findings from the latest study of New Jersey's Abbott Preschool Program showed that children in the state's most disadvantaged communities who participated in the preschool program made significant gains in literacy, language, math and science through 4th and 5th grade. The study found larger gains for children who participated in two years of the preschool program. Additionally, participation was linked to lower retention rates and fewer children needing special education. These findings build on previous results from kindergarten entry and second grade follow-up.
PreK-3rd: Getting Literacy Instruction Right
Talking to Children Matters: Early Language Experience Strengthens Processing and Builds Vocabulary
Weisleder, A. & Fernald, A. (2013). Talking to children matters: Early language experience strengthens processing and builds vocabulary. Psychological Science, November 2013 24: 2143-2152.
In this study, researchers explored how the amount of speech directed to infants in Spanish-speaking families low in socioeconomic status influenced the development of children’s skill in real-time language processing and vocabulary learning. Results showed that children who had experienced more child-directed speech were more efficient at processing language. The analyses revealed a cascade of effects — those toddlers who heard more child-directed talk became faster and more reliable in interpreting speech, and it was their superior skill in processing language that then increased their success in vocabulary learning. An important finding was that even within a low-SES group there were substantial differences among parents in verbal engagement with their children and in children's language outcomes.
The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8
Van Voorhis, F.L., Maier, M., Epstein, J.L., and Lloyd, C.M. The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8 (October 2013) New York City: MDRC
This report reviews 95 studies on how families’ involvement in children’s learning and development through activities at home and at school affects the literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional skills of children. The review also offers recommendations for additional lines of inquiry and discusses next steps in research and practice.
Emergent Literacy Intervention for Prekindergarteners at Risk for Reading Failure: Years 2 and 3 of a Multiyear Study
Bailet, L.L., Repper, K., Murphy, S., Piasta, S., Zettler-Greeley, C. (2013) Emergent Literacy Intervention for Prekindergarteners at Risk for Reading Failure: Years 2 and 3 of a Multiyear Study, Journal of Learning Disabilities March/April 2013 vol. 46 no. 2 133-153.
This study examined the effectiveness of an emergent literacy intervention for prekindergarten children at risk for reading failure, to replicate and improve on significant findings from Year 1 of the study. Lessons targeted critical emergent literacy skills through explicit, developmentally appropriate activities for prekindergarteners. Hierarchical linear models were used to nest children within center and measure treatment effects on phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, and vocabulary skills. Results indicated significant treatment effects on multiple measures in Years 2 and 3. This study replicated and strengthened findings from Year 1 in demonstrating a positive impact of this intervention for prekindergarteners at risk for reading failure.
Increasing Young Children's Contact with Print During Shared Reading: Longitudinal Effects on Literacy Achievement
Piasta, S.B., Justice, S. B., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A. S., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2012). Increasing young children's contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child Development, 83(3), 810-820.
This study examined the impact of Project STAR (Sit Together and Read) on literacy skills of preschool students. Project STAR is a program in which teachers read books aloud to their students and use instructional techniques designed to encourage children to pay attention to print within storybooks. Results of the study indicated a causal relationship between early print knowledge and later literacy skills.
Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators
Guernsey, L., Levine, M., Chiong, C. Stevens, M. (2012). Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators. Washington DC: The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Digital apps designed to teach young children to read are an increasingly large share of the market, but parents and educators have little to no information about whether and how they work. Produced as part of a collaboration between the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the New America Foundation, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, this report scans the market of digital products and shares promising practices and programs.
Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study: Final Report
Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (2012). Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study: Final Report Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Washington, D.C.
This evaluation studied children who entered the Head Start program in the fall of 2002. The final report presents impacts on children and families through the children's third grade year, as well as impacts on subgroups of children and families. Researchers examined several developmental areas, including measures of cognitive, social-emotional, language and literacy, and health outcomes. They found that Head Start improved the preschool experience of participating children, but the program had "few impacts on children in kindergarten through 3rd grade." Researchers concluded, that there was little evidence of systematic differences in children's elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group.
SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months
Fernald, A., Marchman, V. A. and Weisleder, A. (2013), SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months. Developmental Science, 16: 234–248.
This research revealed both similarities and striking differences in early language proficiency among infants from a broad range of advantaged and disadvantaged families. English-learning infants were followed longitudinally from 18 to 24 months, using real-time measures of spoken language processing. The first goal was to track developmental changes in processing efficiency in relation to vocabulary learning in this diverse sample. The second goal was to examine differences in these crucial aspects of early language development in relation to family socioeconomic status (SES). The most important findings were that significant disparities in vocabulary and language processing efficiency were already evident at 18 months between infants from higher- and lower-SES families, and by 24 months there was a 6-month gap between SES groups in processing skills critical to language development.
Children's Schooling and Parents' Investment in Children: Evidence from the Head Start Impact Study
Gelber, A and Isen, A. 2012. Children's Schooling and Parents' Investment in Children: Evidence from the Head Start Impact Study (NBER Working Paper 17704).
Parents may have important effects on their children, but little work in economics explores whether children's schooling opportunities crowd out or encourage parents' investment in children. We analyze data from the Head Start Impact Study, which granted randomly-chosen preschool-aged children the opportunity to attend Head Start. We find that Head Start causes a substantial increase in parents' involvement with their children—such as time spent reading to children, math activities, or days spent with children by fathers who do not live with their children—both during and after the period when their children are potentially enrolled in Head Start. We discuss a variety of mechanisms that are consistent with our findings, including a simple model we present in which Head Start impacts parent involvement in part because parents perceive their involvement to be complementary with child schooling in the production of child qualities.
30 Year Follow-up Study Shows Benefits of High Quality Early Childhood Care and Education
Campbell, F. A., Pungello, E. P., Burchinal, M., Kainz, K., Pan, Y., Wasik, B. H., Barbarin, O. A., Sparling, J. J., and Ramey, C.T. (2012) Adult outcomes as a function of an early childhood educational program: An Abecedarian Project follow-up. Developmental Psychology.
New findings from the long-running, highly regarded Abecedarian Project, led by the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill show that adults who participated in the high quality early childhood education program in the 1970s are still benefitting in a variety of ways. For example, at age 30, Abecedarian Project participants had significantly more years of education than the control group and were four times more likely to have earned college degrees (23% of participants compared to only 6% of the control group).
Repeated Book Reading and Preschoolers' Early Literacy Development
Trivette, C. M., Simkus, A., Dunst, C.J., Hamby, D.W. (2012). Repeated book reading and preschoolers’ early literacy development. CELL reviews, 5 (5).
The effects of repeated book reading on children's early literacy and language development were examined in this meta-analysis of 16 studies including 466 child participants. Results indicated that repeated book reading influenced both story-related vocabulary and story-related comprehension. Findings also showed that the adults' use of manipulatives or illustrations related to the story, positive reinforcement of children's comments, explanation concerning the story when asked, and open-ended questions to prompt child verbal responses were associated with positive child outcomes. Implications for practice are described.
Age 26 Cost–Benefit Analysis of the Child-Parent Center Early Education Program
Using data collected up to age 26 in the Chicago Longitudinal Study, this cost–benefit analysis of the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) is the first for a sustained publicly funded early intervention. The program provides services for low-income families beginning at age 3 in 20 school sites. Kindergarten and school-age services are provided up to age 9 (third grade). Findings from a complete cohort of over 1,400 program and comparison group participants indicated that the CPCs had economic benefits in 2007 dollars that exceeded costs. The preschool program provided a total return to society of $10.83 per dollar invested (18% annual return). The primary sources of benefits were increased earnings and tax revenues and averted criminal justice system costs. The school-age program had a societal return of $3.97 per dollar invested (10% annual return). Findings provide strong evidence that sustained programs can contribute to well-being for individuals and society.
Degrees in Context: Asking the Right Questions about Preparing Skilled and Effective Teachers of Young Children
Whitebook, M. & Ryan, S. 2011. Degrees in context: Asking the right questions about preparing skilled and effective teachers of young children. Preschool Policy Brief, 22. National Institute for Early Education Research, New Brunswick, NJ.
A 2011 policy brief developed jointly by National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) argues that there has been too much focus on debating baseline qualifications such as AA and BA degrees for teachers of young children and not enough focus on the actual education these teachers receive, the support they get for ongoing learning, and the effects of the workplace environment on their teaching practice.
Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Child-Parent Center Early Education Program
Reynolds, A. J., Temple, J. A., White, B. A., Ou, S., & Robertson, D. L. (2011). Cost-benefit analysis of the Child-Parent Center early education program. Child Development, 82, 379-404.
Children who attended an intensive preschool and family support program attained higher educational levels, were more likely to be employed, and less likely to have problems with the legal system than were peers who did not attend the program, according to a study funded by the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The Child-Parent Center (CPC) early education program is a large-scale, federally funded intervention providing services for disadvantaged 3- to 9-year-olds in Chicago. The researchers identified five key principles of the CPC that they say led to its effectiveness, including providing services that are of sufficient length or duration, are high in intensity and enrichment, feature small class sizes and teacher-student ratios, are comprehensive in scope, and are implemented by well-trained and well-compensated staff.
Head Start and the Changing Demographics of Young Children
Golden, O. (2011). Head start and the changing demographics of young children. NHSA Dialog, 14(1).
Head Start and Early Head Start programs have always understood that high-quality services are grounded in a thorough understanding of the children and families in their communities. And the portrait of our nation's children is changing rapidly. Results from the 2010 Census show a dramatic change in the racial and ethnic composition of children, particularly increases in Hispanic and Asian children and declines in white children (and a slight decline nationally in the number of black children). Other recent national surveys show a sharp increase in the proportion of children, and young children in particular, whose parents are immigrants. Based on these trends and recent Urban Institute research, this paper makes four recommendations about how local Head Start practitioners can best meet the needs of today's young children and their families.
Building and Supporting an Aligned System: A Vision for Transforming Education Across the Pre-K-Grade Three Years
National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2011). Building and Supporting an Aligned System: A Vision for Transforming Education Across the Pre-K-Grade Three Years. New York, NY.
Children who attend high-quality pre-kindergarten programs are more likely to graduate from high school, says a report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) that calls on states and communities to build an aligned system to support early childhood learning and kindergarten programs. The report addresses the need for kindergarten programs to be included in national standards, noting that "the availability of kindergarten is highly variable, with unstable funding in many districts and parents paying for full-day programs." NAESP recommends 10 action steps for policy makers to improve fragmented early childhood learning.
Trajectories of the Home Learning Environment Across the First 5 Years: Associations With Children's Vocabulary and Literacy Skills at Prekindergarten
Rodriguez, Eileen; Tamis-LeMonda, Catherine S. (2011) Trajectories of the Home Learning Environment Across the First 5 Years: Associations With Children's Vocabulary and Literacy Skills at Prekindergarten. Child Development 82(4).
A study that looked at the home environments of more than 1,850 children from households at or below the federal poverty line showed that factors such as levels of shared reading, exposure to frequent and varied adult speech, and access to children's books had an impact on school readiness skills. "As a parent, it is never too early to engage your child in learning," said Amber Story, a social psychologist and deputy director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, which funded the study. "This research suggests that the degree to which parents read and talk to their infant; point and label objects in the environment; and provide engaging books and toys when their child is only 15 months old can have long-lasting effects on the infant's language skills years later."
How Words Can and Cannot Be Learned by Observation
Medinaa, TN, Snedekerc, J, Trueswella, J, & Gleitmana, G. (2011). How words can and cannot be learned by observation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(22), 9014-9019.
"If language experiences are not rich, then where is your interest to retain them?" says Janice H. Im of Zero to Three: the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. A new study from University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University suggests that understanding basic words may come from a flash of initial insight more than repetition. The study's findings suggest that children build concrete vocabulary by interacting with a complex, rich learning environment, not just repeated exposure to words in isolation.
Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten
Hull, Jim. Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten. 2011 The Center for Public Education: Alexandria, VA
The report looks at the effect of various combinations of pre-k and kindergarten on third grade reading skills, a key predictor of future academic success. Findings show that children who attend pre-k and half-day kindergarten are more likely to have higher reading skills by the third grade than those who attend full-day kindergarten alone. The impact was greatest for Hispanic children, black children, English Language Learners, and children from low-income families.
Children in Poverty Need Opportunities to Play
Milteer, R. and Ginsburg, K. (2011) The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on Children in Poverty. Pediatrics, 129(1), 204-213.
In a follow-up report to its earlier statement on the importance of play for all children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) looks at specific concerns affecting children from low-income families. For approximately 15 million children living in poverty in the U.S., there are limited opportunities to play and the associated benefits those children could be receiving are also limited.
Developing Kindergarten Readiness and Other Large-Scale Assessment Systems
Snow, K. (2011) Developing Kindergarten Readiness and Other Large-Scale Assessment Systems. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The Center for Applied Research at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has developed new guidance to support states' development and implementation of kindergarten readiness assessment systems.
Income and Education as Predictors of Children's School Readiness
Isaacs, J. and Magnuson, K. (2011). Income and Education as Predictors of Children's School Readiness. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.
Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), the Brookings Institution recently published a paper that looks at how factors such as family income and maternal education are associated with children's school readiness. The authors find that both factors have a significant influence on children's ability to learn long before they enter the classroom. The paper includes a discussion of the challenges of implementing policies to increase family income and maternal education.
Improving School Readiness and Success for Children
Joyner, S. and Theodore, K. (2011). Improving School Readiness and Success for Children. Austin, TX: Southeast Comprehensive Center at SEDL.
A recent article by SEDL's Southeast Comprehensive Center reviews the significance of school readiness and factors that help young learners prepare for school. School readiness consists of three components: (1) a child's readiness for school, (2) schools' readiness to support the learning and development of every child, and (3) family and community supports and services that contribute to children's readiness. School readiness also requires high-quality preschool and readiness programs, professional development for the early childhood workforce, alignment of early learning guidelines and standards with content standards, coordinated early childhood data systems, and other efforts targeted to address the needs of young children and their families.
Watching Teachers Work: Using Observation Tools to Promote Effective Teaching in the Early Years and Early Grades
Guernsey, L., and Ochshorn, S. (2011). Watching Teachers Work: Using Observation Tools to Promote Effective Teaching in the Early Years and Early Grades. Washington, DC: New America Foundation.
Identifying good teachers is a high priority in education reform, yet the debate rarely focuses on how education might improve if policies were based on teachers' individual interactions with their students. This report argues for improving early education up through the third grade (PreK-3rd) by actually watching teachers in action using innovative observation tools in combination with evaluation and training programs. The report also paints a picture of the dismal state of early education for many children — especially the disadvantaged — who are rarely given access to the kinds of stimulating, content-rich conversations that provide them with the cognitive and social-emotional skills they need to succeed throughout their years in school.
Head Start Impact Study
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (January 2010). Head Start Impact Study. Final Report. Washington, DC.
A study about the impact of Head Start shows that at the end of one program year, access to Head Start positively influenced children's school readiness. However, when measured again at the end of kindergarten and first grade, the Head Start children and the control group children were at the same level on many of the measures studied.
Lifting Pre-K Quality: Caring and Effective Teachers
Fuller, B, Gasko, J, Anguiano, R. (2010). Lifting Pre-K Quality: Caring and Effective Teachers. Children's Learning Institute.
This report focuses on helping pre-K teachers develop skills that matter for early learning. The researchers identified mentoring and training for preschool teachers as important tools to help them enrich their instructional activities in classrooms and boost the early language and preliteracy skills of 3- and 4-year-olds.
Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children
International Reading Association (IRA) & National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (2009). Learning to read and write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children. NAEYC: Washington, DC.
Learning to read and write is critical to a child's success in school and later in life. Although reading and writing abilities continue to develop throughout the life span, the early childhood years — from birth through age eight — are the most important period for literacy development. The primary purpose of this position statement is to provide guidance to teachers of young children in schools and early childhood programs (including child care centers, preschools, and family child care homes) serving children from birth through age eight. By and large, the principles and practices suggested here also will be of interest to any adults who are in a position to influence a young child's learning and development — parents, grandparents, older siblings, tutors, and other community members.
Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel
National Center for Family Literacy. (2009). Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.
The National Early Literacy Panel looked at published research concerning children's early literacy skills and reports on which early skills or abilities could properly be said to be the precursors of later literacy achievement.
Disparities in Early Learning and Development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort
Halle, T., Forry, N., Hair, E., Perper, K., Wandner, L., Wessel, J., & Vick, J. (2009). Disparities in Early Learning and Development: Lessons from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). Washington, DC: Child Trends.
This study suggests that cognitive gaps between poor and middle class children show up as early as 9-24 months — and that income and the mother's education are the two biggest risk factors. The report recommends very early intervention for at-risk kids (starting at birth), as well as initiatives to support high school and college graduation programs for the parents an d professional development for at-home child care providers.
Preschool Curriculum: What's in It for Children and Teachers?
The Albert Shanker Institute (2009). Preschool Curriculum: What's in It for Children and Teachers? Washington, D.C.: The Albert Shanker Institute
A new report from the Albert Shanker Institute outlines developmental accomplishments and instructional practices in four areas of preschool curriculum: oral language, literacy, mathematics, and science. Their recommendations can inform districts struggling to design a preschool program or provide guidelines for program evaluation.
Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications
W. Steven Barnett (2008). Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications. National Institute for Early Education Research Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
All children benefit from preschool, and increasing the public's investment in effective preschool can have lasting educational, social, and economic benefits. Recommendations for capitalizing on these conclusions include using proven models, training preschool teachers, and working to increase the number of disadvantaged kids attending preschool.
Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness
Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Consortium (2008). Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness (NCER 2008-2009). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
The Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research initiative studied the impact of the 14 preschool curricula on five student-level outcomes (reading, phonological awareness, language, mathematics, and behavior) and six classroom-level outcomes (classroom quality, teacher-child interaction, and four types of instruction).
National Evaluation of Early Reading First
Russell Jackson, McCoy, Ann, Pistorino, Carol, Wilkinson, Anna,
Burghardt, John, Clark, Melissa, Ross Christine, Schochet, Peter and Swank, Paul. National Evaluation of Early Reading First: Final Report, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 created the Early Reading First (ERF) program to provide funding to preschools, particularly those that serve children from low-income families, to support the development of children's language and literacy skills. NCLB mandated that the Department conduct an independent evaluation of the ERF program to assess the impact of the program on both children's literacy skills as well as the instructional content and practices in preschool classrooms. Using a quasi-experimental design, the study found that the program had a positive impact on children's print and letter knowledge, but not on phonological awareness or oral language. The program had positive impacts on aspects of the classroom environment and teacher practices that are intended to support the development of language and literacy skills.
Early Literacy: Policy and Practice in the Preschool Years
Strickland, D., Riley-Ayers, S. (2006). Early Literacy: Policy and Practice in the Preschool Years. National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), Rutgers University.
Early childhood professionals have long recognized the importance of language and literacy in preparing children to succeed in school. Early literacy plays a key role in enabling the kind of early learning experiences that research shows are linked with academic achievement, reduced grade retention, higher graduation rates, and enhanced productivity in adult life. This report synthesizes the body of professional knowledge about early literacy and offers research-based recommendations.
Recognition and Response: An Early Intervening System for Young Children At-Risk for Learning Disabilities
Coleman, M.R., Buysse, V. & Neitzel, J. (2006). Recognition and Response: An early intervening system for young children at-risk for learning disabilities. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, FPG Child Development Institute: Chapel Hill, NC.
Some young children show signs that they may not be learning in an expected manner, even before they begin kindergarten. These children may exhibit problems in areas such as language development, phonological awareness, perceptual-motor abilities and attention, which are considered precursors of learning disabilities in older children. However, under current state and federal guidelines, these children are unlikely to meet eligibility criteria for having a learning disability. This is because formal identification of a child's learning disability generally does not occur until there is a measurable discrepancy between the child's aptitude and academic achievement, often not until the second or third grade. This report describes a method of addressing those warning signs immediately.
The Efficacy of Electronic Books in Fostering Kindergarten Children's Emergent Story Understanding
De Jong, M., & Bus, A. (2004). The efficacy of electronic books in fostering kindergarten children's emergent story understanding. Reading Research Quarterly, 39, 378-393.
A counterbalanced, within-subjects design was carried out to study the efficacy of electronic books in fostering kindergarten children's emergent story understanding. The study compared effects of children's independent reading of stories electronically with effects of printed books read aloud by adults. Participants were 18 four- to five-year-old Dutch kindergarten children in the initial stages of developing story comprehension but beyond just responding to pictures.
Electronic reading produced experiences and effects similar to adult-read printed books. Children frequently interacted with the animations often embedded in electronic stories, but there was no evidence that the animations distracted children from listening to the text presented by electronic books, nor that the animations interfered with story understanding. Findings suggested that children at this stage of development profited from electronic books at least when electronic books are read in a context where adults also read books to children.
Early Reading Acquisition and its Relation to Reading Experience and Ability 10 Years Later
Cunningham, A.E., & Stanovich, K.E. (1997). Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later. Developmental Psychology, 33, 934-945.
A group of 1st-graders who were administered a battery of reading tasks in a previous study were followed up as 11th graders. Ten years later, they were administered measures of exposure to print, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and general knowledge. First-grade reading ability was a strong predictor of all of the 11th-grade outcomes and remained so even when measures of cognitive ability were partialed out. First-grade reading ability (as well as 3rd- and 5th-grade ability) was reliably linked to exposure to print, as assessed in the 11th grade, even after 11th-grade reading comprehension ability was partialed out, indicating that the rapid acquisition of reading ability might well help develop the lifetime habit of reading, irrespective of the ultimate level of reading comprehension ability that the individual attains. Finally, individual differences in exposure to print were found to predict differences in the growth in reading comprehension ability throughout the elementary grades and thereafter.
Joint Book Reading Makes for Success in Learning to Read: A Meta-analysis on Intergenerational Transmission of Literacy
Bus, A.G., Van Ijzendoorn, M.H., & Pellegrini, A.D. (1995). Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Review of Educational Research, 65, 1-21.
Results of a quantitative analysis of empirical evidence related to parent-preschooler reading support the hypothesis that parent-preschooler reading is related to outcome measures such as language growth, emergent literacy, and reading achievement. Book reading apparently affects acquisition of the written language register.
Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children
Hart, B. and Risley, T. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experiences of young American children. Brookes Publishing Company
The landmark longitudinal study of parent-child talk in families. The researchers recorded one full hour of every word spoken at home between parent and child in 42 families over a three year period, with children from seven months to 36 months of age. Follow-up studies by Hart and Risley of those same children at age nine showed that there was a very tight link between the academic success of a child and the number of words the child's parents spoke to the child to age three. See summary
Getting Reading Right from the Start: Effective Early Literacy Interventions
Hiebert, E.H., & Taylor, B.M. (1994). Getting reading right from the start: Effective early literacy interventions. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
This edited book brings together descriptions of seven literacy intervention programs used by experts to prevent early reading failure in grades K-1. Programs focus on story book reading and writing with attention to word-level strategies, and are developmental, not remedial. Early childhood literacy, diagnosis and treatment of reading difficulties.
Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners
Institute of Museum and Library Services (2012). Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners. Developed in partnership with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
This report calls upon policymakers, practitioners, and parents to make full use of libraries and museums, and the skills and talents of those who work in them, to close knowledge and opportunity gaps and give all children a strong start in learning. The type of learning that occurs in these institutions — self-directed, experiential, content-rich — promotes executive function skills that can shape a child’s success in school and life.
From Scribbles to Scrabble: Preschool Children’s Developing Knowledge of Written Language
Puranik, C.S. and Lonigan, C.J. From scribbles to scrabble: preschool children’s developing knowledge of written language (2011) National Institutes of Health.
The Long Term Economic Benefits of High Quality Early Childhood Intervention Programs
Diefendorf, M., & Goode, C. The long-term economic benefits of high quality early childhood intervention programs. NECTAC Clearinghouse on Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education. Chapel Hill, NC: NECTAC.
An extensive body of research indicates that high quality early intervention for at-risk infants, toddlers and young children and their families is a sound economic investment. Studies have found a number of long-term cost savings in terms of decreased grade repetition, reduced special education spending, enhanced productivity, lower welfare costs, increased tax revenues, and lower juvenile justice costs. This mini-bibliography provides a selection of articles, reports, and book chapters that review some of the major findings on this topic. Some of the included studies focus on services for young children with disabilities, although most address early intervention for children who are at risk for adverse developmental outcomes due to poverty and other environmental factors.
Always Connected: The New Digital Media Habits of Young Children
Gutnick, A. L., Robb, M., Takeuchi, L., & Kotler, J. Always connected: The new digital media habits of young children. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
This report by Sesame Workshop and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center takes a fresh look at data emerging from studies undertaken by Sesame Workshop, independent scholars, foundations, and market researchers on the media habits of young children, who are often overlooked in the public discourse that focuses on tweens and teens. The report reviews seven recent studies about young children and their ownership and use of media. By focusing on very young children and analyzing multiple studies over time, the report arrives at a new, balanced portrait of children’s media habits.