Jade Marcus Jenkins
Associate Professor, University of California, Irvine
I'm an Associate 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.
With limited federal requirements for block grants, states have developed very different welfare policies, often with onerous recertification or reporting requirements, creating barriers to continuous program enrollment. Examined through the framework of Administrative Burden, our study examines how changes to burdensome policies in states’ Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) programs affect the length of children’s continuous enrollment in child care through the CCDF program, known as subsidy “spells.” We exploit state-level changes in three key policies during a 10-year period (2004–13) that capture administrative burden: (1) length of eligibility redetermination; (2) reporting requirements for income changes; and (3) grace period for care before termination. Using state fixed effects analyses in a sample of 38 states using data from the Administration for Children and Families and multiple other sources, we find that administrative burdens meaningfully and robustly affect continuous enrollment in CCDF; switching to a 12-month redetermination period, as required 2014 Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorization, increases children’s continuous enrollment in CCDF care (i.e., state median spell length) by 30%. In contrast, requiring all changes in family income to be reported while enrolled in CCDF decreases spell length by 7%. Results underscore the importance of reducing administrative burdens related to compliance costs to better support low-income citizens, especially those with young children, and improve child development (with T. Nguyen).
Using almost 30 years of national administrative data of all Head Start grantees in the country and a quasi-experimental design, this study is the first to examine the impacts of the introduction of state pre-k on Head Start enrollment of children with disabilities. We found that the implementation of pre-k has led to a 1 percentage point (7 percent) decrease in Head Start enrollment of children with disabilities. This decrease was primarily driven by the decrease of the enrollment of children with speech impairment. Additional analyses revealed that pre-k significantly affected the enrollment of children with disabilities identified before Head Start enrollment but not those identified after. We also found that HS programs located in school systems were able to circumvent some of the impact and saw an increase specifically in their enrollment of children with disabilities identified before Head Start enrollment. Implications for the changing parental preference for Head Start and future research and policies were discussed. (with Q. Zhang).
Early care and education (ECE) evolved around two goals: allowing parents of young children to work (the purpose) and promoting early childhood development (the promise). An extensive body of research has examined how ECE promotes child development. A much sparser body of research has studied how ECE access affects families' economic and psychological well-being, particularly from a developmental perspective. These imbalanced literatures have created an incomplete picture of the role of ECE in developmental science, and this gap in knowledge limits the extent to which both the purpose and the promise of ECE can be fulfilled. In this article, we argue that developmental researchers should pay more attention to the parent and family outcomes, processes, and mechanisms that depend on stable, high-quality care (the purpose), and how these downstream cascades influence child development in the short and long term (the promise). While these issues are international, in this article, we focus on the development of and research on ECE in the United States to illustrate how the focus on both the purpose and promise of ECE could expand policies and research in the area (with M. Burchinal and A. Whitaker).
State governments are largely responsible for most early childhood education (ECE) policies (e.g., state pre-K, Child Care and Development Fund [CCDF]). However, multiple ECE funding streams and governing agencies within a state can lead to misaligned policies and incoherent systems. Thus, there exists great variability within and across states in ECE policy implementation. In our study we descriptively analyzed nationally, publicly available data to assess alignment within state policy systems on three policy levers often used in K-12 education research: state ECE standards, curricula, and assessment, the latter of which we operationalized as states’ quality rating and improvement systems. Additionally, we examined the extent to which the governance of our focal policy levers is dispersed across, or housed within, different state-level institutions or agencies (i.e., alignment via governance). Our descriptive analyses reveal little and limited alignment between a state's policy levers of standards, curriculum, and assessment, and between state preschool policies—state pre-K and CCDF—with respect to curricular guidance. We also find wide variation in the number of ECE governing agencies within a state. The findings indicate potential for confusion around policies for early learning providers and demonstrate largely misaligned or poorly specified policies that are dispersed at the state level. We hope that researchers will continue to refine this initial model of alignment in the context of a rapidly changing ECE policy field. (with A. Auger Whitaker and J. Duer).
Navigating the Financing of Early Childhood Education: An Examination of Blended Funding (forthcoming, Educational Policy)
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).
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).
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).
Response to Intervention and Child Outcomes: Examining Children’s Disability, Cognitive, and Socioemotional Development Using Longitudinal Data
This study examines the relation between school-level Response to Intervention (RTI) introduction and children’s disability status, cognitive development, and socioemotional development from kindergarten through fourth grade using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort 2011. Using child fixed effects analyses, our findings indicate that children who attended an elementary school that had introduced RTI are three percentage points less likely to be identified with a disability by the end of fourth grade compared with children attending schools that did not introduce RTI. We find heterogeneity in this association with respect to children’s disability status; RTI improves the interpersonal skills of children with disabilities but does not affect the outcomes of typically developing children. (with Z. Shea).
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).
A Rising Tide that Lifted All Boats? The Effects of Competition on Early Childhood Education Quality
This study provides a rich description of the relationship between competition and quality in the mixed-delivery ECE market. Using the North Carolina QRIS data in 2019, we examine the association between competition and the quality ratings as well as the detailed quality indicators used to determine the final quality rating (e.g., staff education, classroom interaction). The exploration of the detailed quality indicators provides hypothesis-generating evidence on the strategies programs might adopt in response to competition. (with Q. Zhang)
The Long-Run Achievement Impacts of Early Head Start: Evidence from Program Roll-Out
Since its creation in 1995, Early Head Start (EHS) has provided comprehensive early intervention services to pregnant women and low-income families with infants and toddlers. Designed around developmental theories demonstrating the ability for early interventions to change later outcomes, EHS programs offer a wide range of early intervention services including home visits, child care, prenatal and parenting education, and health care. The federally-mandated Early Head Start Evaluation experiment revealed benefits for EHS child participants including higher cognitive and language development, higher emotional engagement with parents, and fewer aggressive behaviors relative to non-participants (Love et al., 2005). Follow-up analyses conducted when EHS Evaluation participants reached fifth grade found no effects on study outcomes including in cognitive and socio-emotional domains (Vogel et al., 2010). Our findings indicate access to EHS grantees leads to a significantly lower score on math and ELA achievement tests in third grade but not statistical difference by eighth grade. (with J. Duer)