• Jade Marcus Jenkins

    Assistant Professor, University of California, Irvine

  • I'm an Assistant Professor at UCI's School of Education studying early childhood development policy. My work is multidisciplinary, and focuses on issues that are amenable to policy intervention, using diverse research methods to evaluate programs and understand the mechanisms that promote child and family wellbeing.


    I grew up in New York, and received my B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Florida in Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My Master's focus was in community development and poverty reduction.


    After the M.S. program, I worked in Florida’s early childhood care and education system. This firsthand experience in policy implementation was my primary motivation to pursue a Ph.D. in public policy and specialize in early childhood development to learn how to evaluate and develop policies that provide support for families with young children and reduce poverty in the long-term.

  • Curriculum Vitae

  • Recent Publications

    Psychometric Validation and Reorganization of the Desired Results Developmental Profile (forthcoming, Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment)

    This study reports an independent investigation of the psychometric properties of the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP), a teacher-rated measure of school readiness for preschool-aged children. In a sample of 2,031 low-income, three- to five-year old children attending Head Start, we tested three measurement models: a higher order one-factor model, a 7-factor model, and a 5-factor model. To explore the appropriateness of the DRDP for use with diverse populations of young children, we used multiple group and differential item functioning (DIF) analyses to determine whether the DRDP works differently for dual language learners (DLL) and non-DLLs. The proposed 5-factor structure fits the data best, with greater face and statistical validity. Using this conceptually-driven factor structure, the multiple group analyses were robust for DLL and non-DLL preschool students. More than half of the items on the DRDP displayed little DIF. Items measuring emergent language and literacy exhibited DIF favoring non-DLL children.

    Distinctions without a Difference? Preschool Curricula and Children's Development (forthcoming, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness)

    Public preschool programs often require the use of a research-based curriculum, yet limited research examines whether curricular decisions influence classroom processes and children’s school readiness. This study uses four large samples of preschool children to examine differences in classroom quality and activities, and in children’s school readiness by classroom curricular status (published curriculum in use vs. no published curriculum in use), and across classrooms using different curricular packages (e.g., HighScope vs. Creative Curriculum). We find that when a teacher reports using a published curriculum, the features of their classroom are not distinguishable from classrooms where teachers report using no published curriculum. There were no significant differences in children’s outcomes by curricular status. Some significant differences emerged in classroom activities across classrooms using different curricular packages; however, there exists substantial variability across classrooms implementing the same curricular package. For classrooms that reported using HighScope and Creative Curriculum, the two most popular curricula, classroom literacy and math activities and ECERS scores varied as widely within the population of classrooms using each package as it did across the population of preschool classrooms where teachers report using no published curriculum. Program and state fixed effects models reveal very few associations between different published preschool curricula and children’s school readiness. Our findings, while primarily descriptive in nature, question whether current curricular investments in early childhood education policy yield benefits for children’s development (with A. Auger, T. Nguyen, W. Yu).

    Parenting Skills and Early Childhood Development: Production Function Estimates from Longitudinal Data (Review of the Economics of the Household, 2019)

    We provide direct evidence on the importance of specific inputs for child cognitive achievement by estimating alternative specifications of the early childhood production function, between birth and kindergarten. We identify a new measure of a key input, the parent-child interaction, which is not only an important input in the development process, but it is amenable to policy intervention because parenting skills can be taught. We also test the key assumption of the popular Value Added Model—that the lagged dependent variable is a sufficient statistic for the history of inputs. We find that the application of reading books and singing songs and sensitive and engaging parent-child interactions as early as 9 months of age have an important effect on reading among kindergarten children (with S. Handa).

    Do High Quality Kindergarten and First Grade Classrooms Mitigate Preschool Fadeout? ( Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2018)

    Prior research shows that short-term effects from preschool may disappear, but little research has considered which environmental conditions might sustain academic advantages from preschool into elementary school. Using secondary data from two preschool experiments, we investigate whether features of elementary schools, particularly advanced and high-quality instruction in kindergarten and first grade and professional supports to coordinate curricular instruction, reduce fadeout. Across both studies, our measures of instruction did not moderate fadeout. However, results indicated that targeted teacher professional supports substantially mitigated fadeout between kindergarten and first grade but that this was not mediated through classroom quality. Future research should investigate the specific mechanisms through which aligned preschool-elementary school curricular approaches can sustain the benefits of preschool programs for low-income children (with T. Watts, K. Magnuson, E. Gershoff, D. Clements, J. Sarama, G.J. Duncan.)

    Boosting school readiness with preschool curricula: Should preschools target skills or the whole child? (Economics of Education Review, 2018)

    In an effort to promote the school readiness of disadvantaged children, both federal and state governments regulate the quality and curricula of early childhood education programs. We draw on data from the experimental Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Initiative Study to provide an aggregated look at the impacts of four types of preschool curricula (literacy-focused, math-focused, whole-child and locally developed) on both classroom processes and children’s academic and socioemotional outcomes. The math curriculum used in the study was found to be more effective at boosting both classroom math activities and children’s math skills than the two whole-child curricula (HighScope and Creative Curriculum) found in most Head Start and pre-K classrooms. The literacy curricula were more successful than HighScope and Creative Curriculum at promoting early literacy skills, although they produced no statistically significant differences in classroom activities or teacher-child interactions. Compared with an assortment of locally developed curricula, the literacy curricula showed greater success at improving classroom processes and children’s academic skills. Although Creative Curriculum produced much more positive classroom processes than locally developed curricula, it failed to improve either the academic skills or behavior of preschool children. We discuss implications for Head Start and pre-K curricula choice and the utility of widely used classroom rating scales (with G.J. Duncan, A. Auger, M.R. Burchinal, T. Domina, & M. Bitler).

    Double Down Or Switch It Up: Should Low-Income Children Stay in Head Start for Two Years or Switch Programs? (Evaluation Review, 2018)

    Recent growth in subsidized preschool opportunities in the U.S. for low-income four-year-old children has allowed federal Head Start programs to fund more slots for three-year-old children. In turn, when age-3 Head Start participants turn four, they may choose to switch into one of the many alternative care options or choose to stay in Head Start for a second year. We analyze a nationally representative sample of age-3 Head Start participants to examine whether children who stay in Head Start for a second year at age 4 exhibit greater school readiness and subsequent cognitive and behavioral performance compared with children who switch out of Head Start into alternative care. We also examine differences between children who stay at the same Head Start center at age 4 with those who switch to a different Head Start center. Child fixed effects analyses coupled with inverse probability of treatment weights to remove observable, time-invariant differences between Head Start stayers and switchers. Cohort of age-3 Head Start attendees from the Head Start Impact Study. Child cognitive and behavioral skills assessed by trained administrators annually at ages 3-7. Age-3 Head Start participants’ outcomes do not differ at the end of preschool, kindergarten, or first grade based on their choice of age-4 program. Staying at the same Head Start center for two years may be beneficial for behavioral skills. For low-income families, there exist many equally beneficial options to support their children’s school readiness through public preschool programs (with T. Sabol and G. Farkas).

    Are content-specific curricula differentially effective in Head Start or state pre-k classrooms? (AERA-Open, 2018)

    Head Start and state prekindergarten (pre-K) programs can boost the school readiness of low-income children through the use of effective preschool curricula. Encouraging results from some studies suggest that children who receive targeted or content-specific curricular supplements (e.g., literacy or math) during preschool show moderate to large improvements in that targeted content domain, but recent research also suggests differences in children’s school readiness among different preschool program settings. We examine whether children in Head Start or public pre-K classrooms differentially benefit from the use of randomly assigned classroom curricula targeting specific academic domains. Our results indicate that children in both Head Start and public pre-K classrooms benefit from targeted, content-specific curricula. Future research is needed to examine the specific mechanisms and classroom processes through which curricula help improve children’s outcomes (with A. Auger and T. Nguyen)

    Is delayed school entry harmful for children with disabilities? ​ (Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 2018)

    We examine whether the academic achievement of students with disabilities who delay entry into kindergarten differs from similar on-time entering students across categories of students’ identified disability in a large and representative state. Analyses based on disability categories indicate that the negative association between redshirting (delayed kindergarten entry) as a student later identified as having a disability varies across students with different types of disability. For most categories of disability, achievement outcomes were substantially lower for redshirted students compared to students with similar students who enrolled in kindergarten on time. This supports the hypothesis that schools provide young children with better access to early identification and intervention services, which outweigh the benefits of maturation experiences during the redshirt year. However, redshirted students with speech-language impairments had slightly higher achievement compared with similar students who entered on time. Study findings suggest that young children with disabilities enter kindergarten when first eligible (with C.K. Fortner).

    Healthy and Ready to Learn: Effects of a School-Based Public Health Insurance Outreach Program for Kindergarten-Aged Children (Journal of School Health, 2018)

    Rates of child insurance coverage have increased due to expansions in public programs, but many eligible children remain uninsured. Uninsured children are less likely to receive preventative care, which leads to poorer health and achievement in the long term. This study is an evaluation of a school-based health insurance outreach initiative, ‘‘Healthy and Ready to Learn,’’ aiming to identify and enroll uninsured kindergarteners in areas of high economic need in 16 counties in North Carolina.Regression discontinuity design and difference-in-differences analyses were used to estimate the effect of the initiative on Medicaid and CHIP enrollment (primary outcome) and preventive care use (well-child visits; secondary outcome). Focus groups and key-informant interviews were conducted to assess best practices and identify barriers to outreach for child enrollment. The initiative increased enrollment rates by 12.2% points and increased well-child exam rates by 8.6% points in the RD models, but not differences-in-differences, and did not significantly increase well-child visits. Findings demonstrate the potential benefits of using schools as a point of intervention in enrolling young children in public health insurance and as a source of trusted information for low-income parents.


  • Working Papers

    Please feel free to email me for the most updated version of the papers below or on my CV

    Even with rapid and widespread expansion of states’ quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS)—tiered frameworks that assess, communicate, and improve early childhood education (ECE) quality—there exists no population-level information regarding which providers choose to participate in these primarily voluntary systems. We use a nationally representative survey of ECE centers to examine how the characteristics of ECE centers and the communities in which they are located predict participation in QRIS to understand the scope of QRIS policy implementation and the extent to which QRIS may be equity enhancing. We find that approximately one-third of centers nationwide participated in QRIS in 2012. Selection model results reveal that participation is more likely among centers that blend multiple funding sources and who are NAEYC accredited, and in communities with high poverty rates. However, QRIS participation is less likely in communities with high proportions of African American residents. Findings raise questions about how QRISs can equitably engage programs in all communities. (with J. Duer and M. Connors).

    Child care subsidies play an important role in stabilizing parental employment and helping low-income families access affordable child care. With limited federal requirements under CCDBG, states have developed divergent policies for their child care subsidy programs. Our study uses a combination of state-by-year data from 38 states to examine how six key CCDF policy levers across dimensions of administrative burden and generosity relate to stability in children’s care in the CCDF program, known as subsidy “spells.”: (1) length of eligibility redetermination period; (2) reporting requirements for income changes; (3) grace period for care before termination of services; (4) provider reimbursement rates; (5) parent copay amounts; and (6) difference between initial and continuing eligibility income thresholds. We exploit states’ changes in these policy dimensions during a 10-year period (2004-2013) with state fixed effects analyses to address endogeneity, using multiple data sources. We find that administrative burdens robustly affect child spell length; increasing states’ redetermination period length by one month increased state median subsidy spell length by 1.4 weeks, but requiring all changes in family income to be reported throughout families’ enrollment in CCDF decreases spell length by 2.3 weeks. However, CCDF policy generosity was not related to spell length. (with T. Nguyen).

    Policymakers at the federal and state levels aim to expand public early childhood education (ECE) programs, such as prekindergarten programs, with many states providing universal preschool to all age-eligible residents. Yet there exists limited evidence on how a universal ECE intervention like prekindergarten programs may influence the wellbeing of children in the long-run. In this paper, we examine the effects of state mandatory kindergarten requirements on long-run educational attainment and labor market outcomes. While in most states kindergarten began as a voluntary program, starting in the 1970s some states evolved to mandating kindergarten attendance. Several changes in state mandatory school entrance laws across states over time provide an opportunity to causally identify the influence of an additional year of ECE on important individual education and labor market outcomes, comparing states with mandatory attendance to those with voluntary attendance. We exploit this natural experimental design using data from the ACS 2008-2017. Findings indicate no overall impacts of mandatory kindergarten policies on educational attainment in adulthood, but substantial heterogeneous impacts, with women and Hispanic and Black individuals benefiting most in terms of educational attainment, poverty reduction, and income. Our findings indicate that states’ investments in universal early education pay off in the long run, and are equity enhancing. (with M. Rosales-Rueda).

    Immigration Raids and Hispanic Head Start Enrollment

    This paper investigates the local deterrence effect of immigration raids for Hispanic families on Head Start enrollment. Head Start is the largest federal early childcare education program in the U.S. and provides education, health, and other comprehensive services to low income families. For this study, we created a comprehensive panel of nationwide immigration raids, program-level Head Start enrollment, public school-level enrollment, other locally enforced immigration laws/policies, and county-level demographics over the late 2000s. The most novel of these data sources is county locations and dates of federal immigration enforcement raids on workplaces, homes, and communities that were conducted between 2006-2008. To ensure we compare enrollment from similar counties, for each “ever-raid” county, we use the donor pool of “never-raid” counties to identify a match that is similar on both Head Start enrollment patterns and other countywide demographic characteristics up until the first raid. This is done using covariate matching techniques, and since it is done separately for each ever-raid county, this ensures that pre-raid levels and trends are balanced across ever-raid and never-raid counties. Our triple-difference design include Hispanic students enrolled in first grade as an additional counterfactual because first grade school attendance is mandatory, a difference-in-differences estimate for first-grade Hispanic students will pick up any mobility effects caused from the raids, whereas, the difference-in-differences estimate for Hispanic Head Start students picks up both the deterrent and the mobility effect. By subtracting these two estimates in a triple-difference model, assuming the same mobility effect for both groups, the deterrent effect is isolated. Preliminary findings suggest that county-level Hispanic enrollment does decrease following immigration raids in a county. Based on a general difference-in-differences estimate of Head Start students only, Hispanic enrollment drops by 9 percentage points following a raid in a county. Our next steps are to implement the triple difference research design and additional robustness checks.  (with S. Potochnick and R. Santillano).

    The sustaining environments hypothesis refers to the popular idea, stemming from theories in developmental, cognitive, and educational psychology, that the long-term success of early educational interventions is contingent on the quality of the subsequent learning environment. Several studies have investigated whether specific kindergarten classroom and other elementary school factors account for patterns of persistence and fadeout of early educational interventions. These analyses focus on the statistical interaction between an early educational intervention – usually whether the child attended preschool – and several measures of the quality of the subsequent educational environment. The key prediction of the sustaining environments hypothesis is a positive interaction between these two variables. To quantify the strength of the evidence for such effects, we meta-analyze existing studies that have attempted to estimate interactions between preschool and later educational quality in the United States. We then attempt to establish the consistency of the direction and a plausible range of estimates of the interaction between preschool attendance and subsequent educational quality by using a specification curve analysis in a large, nationally representative dataset that has been used in several recent studies of the sustaining environments hypothesis. Both analyses yield interaction estimates of approximately 0. We consider a range of plausible explanations, including 1) the null hypothesis is true, 2) we did not have statistical power to detect interactions of a realistic magnitude, 3) model misspecification because of theoretical ambiguity, and 4) heterogeneity of these interactions across treatments, contexts, and children. We offer a set of recommendations for future research on the sustaining environments hypothesis. (with D. Bailey and D. Alvarez-Vargas).

    Navigating the Financing of Early Childhood Education: An Examination of Blended Funding

    As a result of a patchwork policy approach, many early childhood education programs combine funding from multiple streams coined as a “blended funding” model. However, little is known about how blended funding models relate to adherence to high-quality early childhood standards. Using organizational theory, this research explores how blended funding influences early childhood programs. Our study uses national survey data to first identify the prevalence of blended funding models and Quality Counts California data to describe the relation between blended funding models and program quality. Results suggest an overall positive association between a program’s number of funding streams and program quality measured by CLASS, ECERS, and QRIS scores. Findings highlight that early education programs often blend funding from Head Start, state pre-k, and additional streams, and offer support for resource dependency theory by identifying the positive relation between blended funding models and adherence to high-quality standards. (with J. Duer).

    A new concern in parents’ child rearing decisions is whether to enroll their child in kindergarten “on time”, when they are first age-eligible, or to delay their kindergarten entry, known as “redshirting”. The literature on delayed entry and relative age at kindergarten entry show mixed results, at least in part because of the selection bias related to school entry decisions. Our paper addresses this gap by providing the first causal estimates of the effects of redshirting on achievement outcomes by exploiting an exogenous policy change in the birthdate enrollment cutoff for public schools in North Carolina (NC). NC moved the birthdate cutoff from Oct 15th to September 1st for children entering school in the 2009-2010 school year. This change required children born in these six weeks of the year to delay kindergarten entry, which essentially forced parents to redshirt their children. We compare the outcomes of these “forced” redshirted children with the outcomes of their peers (from leading and trailing cohorts) using census-level administrative data with exact birthdates to identify the impact of redshirting on achievement outcomes and on students’ curricular determinations of giftedness or having a disability in third through fifth grades. We find that delayed kindergarten entry provides small benefits to students’ math and reading achievement, and makes children slightly less likely to be identified with a disability. We also find heterogeneous benefits for students who are low-income and non-white. (with C. K. Fortner).

  • Current Projects

    In progress

    Consequences of early learning program sequences: Evidence from Baltimore City

    Using a new integrated administrative dataset, this analysis examines the kindergarten readiness and performance of 998 Baltimore children who enrolled in Head Start at age three and entered kindergarten in 2014. Using matching models to adjust for the birth characteristics of children, the results show that children who transition to public pre-kindergarten at age four are more likely to be ready for kindergarten as measured state-wide assessments, and that both groups of children had similar rates of chronic absence and grade repetition. Moreover, children who experienced either sequence fared dramatically better in all dimensions than 499 similar children who entered kindergarten having experienced neither program. The respective agencies coordinated their efforts in 2014 to increase the number of children who enroll in both programs, and in this respect Baltimore can serve as a national model. (with J. Grigg, D. McKinney, and F. Connolly).

    Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment in Early Childhood Education: A Comparison of States’ Preschool Curricula Mandates and Quality Rating Systems

    To generate systematic improvements in the early learning experiences of children in public early childhood education (ECE) programs, it is important that researchers, administrators, and policymakers understand the policy levers currently in place that aim to improve the effectiveness of ECE programs. Our study focuses on three policy levers: 1) early learning standards; 2) curricula; and 3) Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). To examine the intersections of these three major policies, we compiled a 50-state dataset from multiple sources to examine preschool early learning standards, curricular guidelines, and QRISs in 2017 to conduct a descriptive analysis of policy integration. Our findings indicate that the majority of QRISs mention curricula in both their infant-toddler and preschool scales, but only 10 states listed specific curricular packages. The most popular curricula named in both QRIS levels were HighScope and Creative Curriculum, aligning with prior research on curricula use in center-based ECE. Early learning standards in QRISs tell a similar story; only 11 state QRISs at the infant-toddler level and 13 at the preschool level include alignment with state early learning guidelines in their rating scales. Follow-up analyses will examine the lead agencies responsible for QRIS to assess the extent to which ECE systems are dispersed amongst multiple agencies. (with A. Auger Whitaker and J. Duer).

  • Contact Information



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    2052 Education

    University of California, Irvine

    Irvine, CA 92697-5500