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Strengthening the Early Education Continuum icon About the Strengthening the Early Education Continuum Alliance

Alliance members from Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are working together to improve early education and outcomes for the youngest students in the Mid-Atlantic region by strengthening the quality, alignment, and interpretability of data from birth through grade 3.

What Stakeholders Say

The Value of the Go-Learn-Grow Toolkit on Improving Absenteeism in the Early Grades

  • Dr. Robin Moore, Principal at Roland Rogers Elementary School, Vice President of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association and a REL Mid-Atlantic Governing Board member

Featured Video

Strengthening the Early Education Research Alliance

Tips for Supporting Elementary Writing Skills at Home Tips for Supporting Elementary Writing Skills at Home (1.4 MB)
The REL developed a tip sheet to help families and caregivers support children’s elementary writing skills at home.
This webinar provided research-based information about remotely teaching young children in pre-kindergarten to grade 3, including practical steps that align with research guidance.
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The REL provided coaching to Delaware staff on recommendations to improve early childhood teacher education and compensation, as well as the successes and challenges other states have had implementing education and compensation initiatives.

Tips for Supporting Elementary Writing Skills at Home Tips for Supporting Elementary Writing Skills at Home (1.4 MB)
The REL developed a tip sheet to help families and caregivers support children’s elementary writing skills at home.

The REL conducted a systematic evidence review on the effectiveness of play as a teaching practice for young children in pre-kindergarten through third grade using the ESSA non-regulatory framework for evidence. Read more here.

The REL coordinated and collaborated with staff from the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning to (1) determine what constitutes a strong or weak evaluation study according to the ESSA framework for evidence, and (2) identify existing evidence on the effectiveness of play as a teaching strategy for young children, communicate the evidence to school leaders and teachers, and determine prospects for expanding the evidence on the effectiveness of teaching strategies of interest. Read the memo here.

The REL conducted a study for the MSDE to address a critical need to better understand its schools’ contributions to student learning in the early elementary grades as a part of its accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The early grades lay an important foundation for students’ future academic success. Yet, as is the case for nearly every state, MSDE lacks a measure of how well its schools are supporting the academic growth of its youngest students, from kindergarten to grade 3. A K–3 school-level growth measure was estimated and examined. The research team identified some concerns about the measure’s validity and precision that suggest it should be used for accountability with caution. Other key report findings include:

  • The overall Kindergarten Readiness Assessment score performs about as well in predicting grade 3 achievement as combinations of kindergarten readiness subscores.
  • Schools’ grade K–3 growth estimates are likely less valid than schools’ grade 3–4 growth estimates but have a similar level of precision.
  • K–3 growth estimates are more precise for larger schools than for smaller ones.
  • Administering the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment to a subset of students in each classroom (as opposed to all students) greatly reduces the precision of schools’ K–3 growth estimates.

View the report here.

Using Kindergarten Entry Assessments to Measure Whether Philadelphia's Students are On-Track for Reading Proficiently Fact Sheet Using kindergarten entry assessments to measure whether Philadelphia’s students are on-track for reading proficiently (284 KB)
The REL developed a fact sheet summarizing our work with the School District of Philadelphia on school readiness indicators.

In May 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill requiring schools with high chronic absenteeism rates to develop a corrective action plan to improve attendance. Under this new regulation, K–12 public schools must examine their absenteeism data and formulate strategies to decrease chronic absenteeism rates that are specific to their student population and community. REL staff worked with staff from the New Jersey Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood Education to develop a resource compendium to help districts and private early childhood programs understand and address absenteeism in early years. The resource compendium includes a cohesive guidance document and a set of companion presentation slides for New Jersey state officials, district and school leaders, private pre-kindergarten program administrators, teachers, parents and families, and community stakeholders. The resource compendium can be found here.

REL Mid-Atlantic partnered with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning to develop an indicator of school readiness at kindergarten entry that could measure intermediate progress towards Philadelphia's goal of increasing the percentage of grade 4 students who can read on grade level by 2020. Key report findings include:

  • Higher Kindergarten Entry Inventory scores predicted grade 3 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment proficiency
  • The study identified a threshold that accurately predicted the actual grade 3 proficiency rate

Delaware is working to refine its quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for early childhood care and education settings to ensure consistency in quality within each level, distinguish quality between levels, and ensure the validity of the ratings. This workshop provided research-based coaching to inform the QRIS redesign efforts and changes to its tiered reimbursement structure. The workshop discussed research evidence to inform decisions about the issues with which the redesign team is grappling and provide information on the experiences other states face in modifying their QRIS. View the archived event resources to view recordings from the workshop presentations.

Research Alliance Facilitator: Christine Ross, PhD
Name Title Organizational affiliation Organization location
Pamala Alfaro Education Associate Delaware Department of Education Delaware
Christine Alois Deputy Secretary Delaware Department of Education Delaware
Nicolae Borota Manager, Division of Early Childhood Education New Jersey Department of Education New Jersey
Diane Castelbuono Deputy Chief, Office of Early Childhood Education School District of Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Caitlin Gleason Education Associate Delaware Department of Education Delaware
Tonya Hall-Coston Director, Division of Early Childhood Education and Family Engagement New Jersey Department of Education New Jersey
Christina Koutsourades Education Specialist Delaware Department of Education Delaware
Kimberly Krzanowski Executive Director Delaware Department of Education Office of Early Learning Delaware
Charlie Mitchell Research Assessment Specialist Maryland State Department of Education Maryland
Katie Mosher Research Specialist School District of Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Maryanne Olley Early Education Advisor, Office of Child Development and Early Learning Pennsylvania Department of Education Pennsylvania
Kristyn Stewart Senior Research Associate School District of Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Manuel Torres Research Scientist New Jersey Department of Education New Jersey
Judith Walker Early Learning Branch Chief Maryland State Department of Education Maryland
Wendi Webster-O’Dell Coordinator for Parent and Family Engagement in Student Learning New Jersey Department of Education New Jersey
Beth Wharton K-3 Coordinator, Division of Early Childhood Education New Jersey Department of Education New Jersey
Barry Wiestling Early Childhood Education Advisor Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Pennsylvania
Deborah Wise Chief, Bureau of Early Learning Services Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning Pennsylvania
Interested in joining us or learning more? Contact us.

Goals

Improving early education in the region from birth to grade 3, including in public school systems and other early education providers receiving public funding or support. Partnerships within the alliance addressed the following goals:

  • Expanding measurement of early learning. Use kindergarten entry assessments and other assessments in the early grades to measure student learning between kindergarten and grade 3. Expand the capacity of partner agencies to use kindergarten assessment information to better support early learners.
  • Assessing effectiveness of teaching practices in pre-K through grade 3. Understand the research basis for the effectiveness of play as a teaching practice for children in pre-kindergarten through grade 3, and ultimately how to build evidence for effective teaching practices in the early grades to promote stronger student achievement.
  • Reducing chronic absenteeism in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. Help district and school leaders and parents of young children understand the association between chronic absenteeism and other school outcomes; to identify reasons for absenteeism; and to develop strategies for reducing chronic absenteeism for children in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, using data to improve the implementation of those strategies.
  • Improving early childhood care and education quality to better prepare children for school. Apply the research on teacher qualifications and compensation in early childhood education (ECE) settings and blended funding for early care and education programs to improve early education quality. Provide research-based approaches to revising Delaware’s QRIS.

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