• 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, extending through education, economics, developmental psychology, political science, public health, neuroscience, and sociology. My research focuses on issues that are amenable to policy intervention, using diverse methods to evaluate program effects and make causal inferences.


    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

    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.


    Does participation in music and performing arts influence child development? (American Educational Research Journal, 2017)

    This article reconsiders the association between childhood arts participation and cognitive and developmental outcomes. Using data from a large, nationally representative sample with extensive covariates, we employ propensity score weighting to adjust comparisons of children who are and are not involved in the arts (music and performing arts lessons) to address potential con-founding from selection into arts education. We examine a broad range of outcomes in adolescence and early adulthood (e.g. GPA, self-esteem, college attendance). Our results show that selection into arts participation is at least as strong as any direct effect on outcomes, providing no support for the causal associations between arts participation and cognitive outcomes. However, we do find that arts participation increases arts engagement during young adulthood (with E.M. Foster).

    Kindergarten redshirting: Motivations and spillovers using census-level data (Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 2017)

    Recent studies have leveraged national and statewide data sets to determine the incidence of, and factors contributing to kindergarten ‘redshirting’ (students enrolling in kindergarten a year later than expected based on state enrollment cutoffs). Redshirting may not only affect a child’s own outcomes, but its aggregate impact may also have implications for school administration and funding, classroom management, and peer learning experiences. We use a recent statewide micro-level census data set including information from the kindergarten through third grade years in North Carolina to examine the incidence of redshirting in the state and its association with various outcomes in third grade. We find a negative association between redshirting and math achievement and a positive association with reading achievement and odds of being identified as disabled. Redshirting also creates a negative externality (lower test scores) when students attend kindergarten and third-grade classes with higher proportions of redshirted children (with C.K. Fortner).

  • Working Papers

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

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

    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).

    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).

    Who participates in State Quality Rating and Information Systems (QRIS)

    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 selection into QRIS. Results reveal that participation is more likely among centers that blend multiple funding sources and among those located in predominantly white communities, communities with high poverty rates, and 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).

    Keeping Kids in Care: What makes a Difference in State CCDF Policy?

    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 examines the impact of four key CCDF policy dimensions on CCDF subsidy spell length, focusing on recent policy changes mandated through the 2014 CCDF reauthorization legislation: (1) length of eligibility redetermination period; (2) reporting requirements for income changes; (3) provider reimbursement rates; and (4) parent copay amounts. Our outcome variable is the length of children’s continuous enrollment in the subsidy program, known as subsidy “spells.” We exploit states’ changes in these policy dimensions during a 4-year period (2005-2009) with state fixed effects analyses to address endogeneity, using multiple data sources. Our preliminary analyses suggest that increasing states’ redetermination period length by one month would increase median subsidy spell length by .9 weeks, but that requiring all changes in family income to be reported throughout families’ enrollment in CCDF decreases spell length by almost 1 month. A study such as this offers states the opportunity to identify the policy dimensions that create barriers to, or opportunities for, subsidy maintenance and consider how changes to these policies can better meet the needs of low-income families and their children. Our future analyses will incorporate all 50 states over a longer panel of time to provide more robust evidence of the impacts of policies on children’s care stability. (with T. Nguyen).

  • Current Projects

    In progress

    The returns of an additional year of schooling: The case of state- mandated kindergarten

    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. To inform current ECE policy, this study examines the effects of a similar ECE intervention—state mandatory kindergarten requirements—on individual 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—and in some instances, within—states over time provide an opportunity to causally identify the influence of an additional year of ECE on individual’s long-run outcomes, comparing states with mandatory attendance to those with voluntary attendance. We exploit this natural experimental design using state-level data gathered from numerous sources, and individual-level data on educational and economic wellbeing from the restricted-use Census and ACS from 2000-2015. Study results will shed light shed light on the anticipated impact of universal prekindergarten programs given the national trend towards preschool for all (with M. Rosales-Rueda).

    Will increasing the kindergarten birthdate cutoff improve student test score outcomes? Evidence from North Carolina

    In recent years, several states increased the age cutoffs for kindergarten entry requiring that children are at least five years old at the start of their kindergarten school year (e.g. moving the date from December to September). The principal focus of this study is to determine whether age at school entry is beneficial for children’s outcomes in the short- and long-term given the equivocal nature of existing research. In 2009, North Carolina moved the kindergarten birthdate cutoff from October 15th to September 1st, requiring kindergarten entrants to be 5 years old on or before September 1st of the 2009-10 school year (and thereafter) to enroll in kindergarten. We leverage this policy change in a quasi-experimental research design to determine the impact of the change in birthdate cutoff on student test score achievement and proficiency in 3rd grade reading and mathematics. To control for school district-level influences, we conduct both statewide and within-district difference-in-difference models. We use recent (2007-2013) statewide micro-level census data from North Carolina, including student’s exact birthdates and information from kindergarten through 3rd grade. This is the first statewide evaluation of a change in birthdate cutoff policy in a large and diverse state. States are increasingly considering policy changes to birthdate cutoffs; the findings from our study are therefore extremely relevant in the current education policy discussion across the country (with C. K. Fortner).

    Local Immigration Enforcement Policies and Head Start Participation of Hispanic Families


    Recent efforts to revitalize mass deportations through localized immigration enforcement and federal immigration raids, and the resurgence of symbolic localized policies such as English only-laws, are likely to have profound impacts on Hispanic families, who are often mixed status. In this paper, we provide the first national-level assessment of how three main immigration enforcement efforts—localized immigration policing programs, federal immigration raids, and symbolic local policies—impact the enrollment of young Hispanic children, the vast majority of whom are U.S. citizens, in Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs. We focus on ECE because prior research has yet to examine the consequences immigration enforcement efforts have on young Hispanic immigrant children, who are already disadvantaged in terms of ECE enrollment. We utilize difference-in-difference models, Head Start administrative data, and a unique county-level immigration policy dataset to provide evidence on how each of these immigration enforcement efforts affect the ECE enrollment of Hispanic children. Preliminary results provide suggestive evidence that localized immigration enforcement efforts reduce ECE participation among Hispanic children. We identify several next steps for project development (with S. Potochnick and S. Lee).

    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).

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    2052 Education

    University of California, Irvine

    Irvine, CA 92697-5500