Recent Highlights from Our Research and Policy Library

Below are highlights from our most recent acquisitions. Research Connections scans its newest acquisitions, focusing on those from key organizations and journals, to identify resources to feature here.

What lessons did five states learn from streamlining and coordinating their child care subsidy policies?

Improving child care subsidy programs: Findings from the Work Support Strategies evaluation
Hahn, Heather, 02/01/2018
Washington, DC: Urban Institute. Retrieved from

To help inform states currently focusing on simplifying access to benefits and improving service delivery, including those implementing the new requirements, this report highlights steps taken and lessons learned by five states that--before the reauthorization of the CCDF--were already working actively to improve CCDF benefit access and retention, efficiency of service delivery, quality of client service, and alignment of the CCDF with other benefit programs. These states participated in the Work Support Strategies (WSS) initiative between 2012 and 2015 (box 2). As part of WSS, these states took steps to simplify the process for accessing and retaining child care subsidies and aligned that process with those for accessing other key work supports, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The lessons learned by these states are directly relevant to the current efforts states are making to implement the newly reauthorized CCDF and to broader efforts to improve service delivery for their clients. In this report, we lay out some of the key lessons and insights from the WSS states in the following areas: - Why did states pursue changes to child care subsidy systems? - What changes did states make? - What issues did states encounter? We conclude with a brief discussion of the implications of these findings for implementation of the reauthorized CCDF. (author abstract)

How do patterns of attendance in Head Start relate to kindergarten attendance and children's achievement?

School absenteeism through the transition to kindergarten
Ansari, Arya, 01/01/2018

Using nationally representative data from the Family and Child Experiences Survey 2009 Cohort (n = 2,798), this study examined patterns of absenteeism and their consequences through the transition to kindergarten. Overall, children were less likely to be absent in kindergarten than from Head Start at ages 3 and 4. Absenteeism was fairly stable across these early years, but children who experienced two years of Head Start were less likely to be absent in kindergarten than their classmates who only attended the program for one year. Ultimately, absenteeism at both ages 3 and 4 was associated with lower math and literacy achievement. However, children who experienced two years of Head Start and were more frequently absent demonstrated greater language development through the end of kindergarten as compared with children who only attended the program for one year. Policy implications are discussed in light of the complexity of early childhood education attendance in the United States. (author abstract)

What barriers do low-income families face in their children's preschool attendance and what are possible solutions?

Understanding barriers and solutions affecting preschool attendance in low-income families
Susman-Stillman, Amy R., 01/01/2018

Preschool attendance problems negatively impact children's school readiness skills and future school attendance. Parents are critical to preschoolers' attendance. This study explored parental barriers and solutions to preschool attendance in low-income families. School-district administrative data from a racially/ethnically diverse sample of parents with children attending the district's half-day preschool program were obtained (N = 111). Subsamples of parents participated in a phone interview and follow-up, in-person interview. Parents valued early learning and preschool. Children missed school due to illness, problems with child care, transportation, and family life. Differences in attendance rates appeared by school, family demographics, and race/ethnicity. African-Americans and Hispanics experienced more barriers than Whites and Asians, and were more likely to miss school because of illness and medical appointments. Hispanics were more likely to miss for vacation. Parents noted a lack of social connection with other parents in the school/neighborhood, making seeking help to resolve attendance barriers difficult. (author abstract)

Which aspects of the preschool classroom language environment contribute to children's language growth?

Linguistic environment of preschool classrooms: What dimensions support children's language growth?
Justice, Laura M., 01/01/2018

Individual differences in young children's language acquisition reflect in part the variability in the language-learning environment that they experience, both at home and in the classroom. Studies have examined various dimensions of the preschool classroom language environment, including linguistic responsivity of early childhood educators, data-providing features of teachers' talk, and characteristics of the systems-level general environment, but no study has examined the unique contribution of each dimension to children's language growth over time. The goals of this study were to determine how best to represent the dimensionality of the preschool classroom's linguistic environment and to determine which dimensions are most strongly associated with children's language development. Participants were teachers in 49 preschool classrooms and a random sample of children from each classroom (330 children between 40 and 60 months of age, [mean] = 52 months, SD= 5.5). Children's grammar and vocabulary skills were measured at three time-points, and the classroom linguistic environment was assessed with measures representing teachers' linguistic responsivity, data-providing features of teachers' talk, and systems-level general quality. Using exploratory structural equation modeling (ESEM), we determined that the classroom language environment is best characterized by a three-dimensional model. A multilevel latent growth model subsequently showed that only one of the three dimensions, teachers' communication-facilitating behaviors, predicted growth in children's vocabulary from preschool to kindergarten. Implications for teacher professional development are discussed. (author abstract)

What is the relationship of child care experiences to children's stress as measured by their cortisol levels?

Children's physiological responses to childcare
Vermeer, Harriet J., 06/01/2017

This review focuses on children’s physiological responses to out-of-home childcare. The finding that children’s cortisol levels are higher at childcare than at home has been well-replicated. Here we summarize recent evidence examining possible correlates of elevated cortisol levels. Reviewed studies suggest that childcare quality matters, whereas group sizes and type of care do not. As for child characteristics, elevated cortisol at childcare is more pronounced in toddlers than in infants, and in inhibited and aggressive children. We discuss recent advances focusing on hair cortisol analysis and immunomarkers of stress, and suggest that there is a need for experimental and longitudinal studies to examine causal relations and possible negative long-term consequences for children’s health and development. (author abstract)

What role does elementary school quality play in the persistence of preschool effects?

The role of elementary school quality in the persistence of preschool effects
Ansari, Arya, 02/01/2018

Long-term evaluations of preschool programs have yielded mixed findings regarding the persistence of preschool effects. Data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort of 1998 (n = 15,070) were used to estimate the extent to which the academic benefits of preschool persist as a function of the quality of the elementary school children subsequently experience. Results from propensity score models revealed that the academic benefits of preschool were largely sustained through the end of fifth grade when children subsequently attended a high quality elementary school. In contrast, less than one quarter of these benefits persisted when children attended a low quality elementary school. Taken together, these results point to the role of elementary schools in maintaining the long-term academic benefits of preschool. (author abstract)

What do 20 years of evaluation research tell us about the effectiveness of the US Department of Education's Ready To Learn educational media initiative?

Getting a read on Ready to Learn media: A meta-analytic review of effects on literacy
Hurwitz, Lisa B., 01/01/2018

Most U.S. preschoolers have consumed media created with funding from the U.S. Department of Education's Ready To Learn (RTL) initiative, which was established to promote school readiness among children ages 2-8. Synthesizing data from 45 evaluations (N = 24,624 unique child participants), this meta-analysis examined the effects of RTL media exposure on young children's literacy skills. Results indicate positive effects of RTL media exposure on children's literacy outcomes, especially vocabulary and phonological concepts. These effects are equivalent to about one-and-a-half months of literacy learning above and beyond typical growth. Findings are robust across a variety of research designs and for exposure to both television and new media. These results are discussed in terms of accountability evidence for RTL and larger debates in scholarly understanding of educational media effects. (author abstract)

What is the role of informal child care in Detroit and Wayne County, Michigan?

Informal child care in Detroit
Thomas, Jaime, 10/01/2017
(Issue Brief ICCD-1). Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Retrieved from{87E92F55-36E0-4DB2-B9FC-F8D282BBD411}

Mathematica prepared three briefs to summarize ICCD project findings for WKKF, community leaders, program staff, parents, child care providers, and other stakeholders. This brief highlights the role of informal child care in Detroit and Wayne County, Michigan; the second describes parent and informal caregiver networks; and the third discusses barriers to children receiving high quality care and offers recommendations for overcoming them. (author abstract) o Additional briefs in this series explore parent and informal caregiver networks and supporting high quality informal child care

To see a complete list of new research, please view Archived New Research.