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.
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).
Fadeout in an early mathematics intervention: Constraining content or preexisting differences? (Developmental Psychology, 2016)
A robust finding across research on early childhood educational interventions is that the treatment effect diminishes over time, with children not receiving the intervention eventually catching up to children who did. One popular explanation for fadeout of early mathematics interventions is that elementary school teachers may not teach the kind of advanced content that children are prepared for after receiving the intervention, so lower-achieving children in the control groups of early mathematics interventions catch up to the higher-achieving children in the treatment groups. An alternative explanation is that persistent individual differences in children’s long-term mathematical development result more from relatively stable preexisting differences in their skills and environments than from the direct effects of previous knowledge on later knowledge. We tested these 2 hypotheses using data from an effective preschool mathematics intervention previously known to show a diminishing treatment effect over time. We compared the intervention group to a matched subset of the control group with a similar mean and variance of scores at the end of treatment. We then tested the relative contributions of factors that similarly constrain learning in children from treatment and control groups with the same level of posttreatment achievement and preexisting differences between these 2 groups to the fadeout of the treatment effect over time. We found approximately 72% of the fadeout effect to be attributable to preexisting differences between children in treatment and control groups with the same level of achievement at posttest. These differences were fully statistically attenuated by children’s prior academic achievement (with D.H. Bailey, T. Nguyen, T. Domina, D. Clements, J. Sarama).
Head Start at ages 3 and 4 versus Head Start followed by state pre-k: Which is more effective?" (Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 2016)
As policy-makers contemplate expanding preschool opportunities for low-income children, one possibility is to fund two, rather than one year of Head Start for children at ages 3 and 4. Another option is to offer one year of Head Start followed by one year of pre-k. We ask which of these options is more effective. We use data from the Oklahoma pre-k study to examine these two ‘pathways’ into kindergarten using regression discontinuity to estimate the effects of each age-4 program, and propensity score weighting to address selection. We find that children attending Head Start at age 3 develop stronger pre-reading skills in a high quality pre-kindergarten at age 4 compared with attending Head Start at age 4. Pre-k and Head Start were not differentially linked to improvements in children’s pre-writing skills or pre-math skills. This suggests that some impacts of early learning programs may be related to the sequencing of learning experiences to more academic programming (with G. Farkas, G.J. Duncan, M.R. Burchinal, D.L. Vandell).
Dispersed vs. Centralized Policy Governance: The Case of State Early Care and Education Policy (Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 2016)
Policy and public management scholars have long theorized about the fragmentation of policy governance across numerous agencies, yet the effects of concentrated or dispersed governance on outcomes of the target population are largely unknown. Child policy is a policy field where dispersion has raised particular concerns, leading several states to consolidate governance for children’s programs in recent years. After presenting arguments both for and against the dispersion of policies across agencies, we estimate the effect of dispersion of state-level early childhood education policy governance on children’s reading skills. Using a unique nationally representative, longitudinal data set of young children merged with rich state-level data, we use instrumental variables estimation to address potential endogeneity of state governance policies. Our findings indicate that there is a significant positive effect of dispersed governance on children’s reading skills in kindergarten. The returns to dispersion diminish above four agencies. Future research in this area should explore the specific mechanisms through which policy governance affects child outcomes (with G.T. Henry).
Does participation in music and performing arts influence child development? (forthcoming, American Educational Research Journal)
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 adoles-cence 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).
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).
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).
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).
Do High Quality Kindergarten and First Grade Classrooms Mitigate Preschool Fadeout?
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.
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).
Who benefits from being redshirted? Examining heterogeneity in the effects of delayed kindergarten entry
Many studies have examined the main effects of redshirting, delayed entry into kindergarten, on young children's academic outcomes. However, few studies have examined how these effects, or non-effects, vary across different subpopulations of children. Our study uses administrative educational data from North Carolina to test how redshirting in kindergarten may affect children's outcomes in third, fourth, and fifth grades differently by gender, race, ethnicity, and disability and gifted status. We find that for children who are identified as having a disability, being redshirted in kindergarten reduces their reading and math standardized test scores in third grade by .2 standard deviations. The next sets of analyses will examine how these effects vary further by the type of disability identified (cognitive, behavioral, physical). We also find that while boys are more likely to be redshirted in kindergarten, girls who are redshirted have nearly four times the odds of being identified as disabled in the third grade. This suggests that there is a strong pattern of negative selection into redshirting for girls relative to boys, who may be redshirted for maturity or other less severe reasons (with C.K. Fortner).
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).