Volume 10, Issue 16

May 20, 2011

Hot Topics

A study by David K. Dickinson, Vanderbilt University and Michelle V. Porche, Wellesley College found that pre-K teachers' use of sophisticated vocabulary during informal conversations with children predicted children's kindergarten vocabulary which in turn correlated with fourth grade word reading. It also correlated with children's kindergarten print ability and thus indirectly affected 4th grade reading comprehension. Conversations including analysis of stories and discussion of words and teacher corrections of incorrect responses predicted receptive vocabulary at the end of kindergarten. The article appears in the current issue of Child Development.
A University of Virginia study of 60,000 students in 1,000 schools found that children attending state-funded pre-K programs had a lower likelihood of repeating kindergarten and improved probabilities of meeting or exceeding minimum literacy competencies. The benefits of attending state-funded pre-K were the greatest upon kindergarten entry but persisted until the end of the 1st grade for Hispanic and Black students, as well as for students with disabilities. This was so despite the fact that the kids attended schools with higher concentrations of poverty.
The current issue of Principal magazine focuses on pre-K. NIEER co-directors Ellen Frede and Steve Barnett penned the lead article, "Why Pre-K is Critical to Closing the Achievement Gap." They point out that the availability of preschool is a strong predictor of PISA scores across countries and make the case that high-quality universal preschool would go a long way toward raising the PISA scores of American students. Other authors in the issue include Jacqueline Jones, senior advisor for early learning at the U.S. Department of Education, and Harriet Dichter, national director of the First Five Years Fund.
In his latest book, early childhood expert David L. Kirp, professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, brings characteristic clarity to the importance of investing wisely in children. His "Kids First" policy agenda is guided by a "golden rule" principle that each child deserves what's good enough for a child we know and love. He presents five cradle-to-college initiatives that can change the arc of all children's lives: strong support for parents; high-quality early education; linking schools and communities to improve what both offer children; giving all youngsters access to a caring and stable adult mentor; and providing kids a nest egg to help pay for college or kick-start a career. Kirp also writes that due to the mounting cost of Medicare and Social Security, by 2019 the share of gross domestic product that goes to support children is predicted to fall from 2.4 percent to 1.9 percent — a 20 percent decline.
New America Foundation's Lisa Guernsey writes in The Huffington Post that the notion that parents can teach babies to read continues to be fueled by organizations like the Philadelphia-based Institutes for Achievement of Human Potential. She points out the absence to research supporting such efforts and discusses what the research does say about the formation of literacy skills.
 
Also writing at The Huffington Post is Susan Ochshorn, founder of ECE PolicyWorks, who says school principals account for 25 percent of the impact on student learning and that elementary school principals are increasingly embracing pre-K as a critical part of children's educations.
It is with profound sadness that many in early education learned of the recent death of Phil Evans. As communications director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and a consultant to a number of organizations, including NIEER, Phil was a master at effectively communicating early education's messages in ways that command the attention of journalists, policymakers, and the general public. His communication skills were forged during a long and distinguished journalism career that included the managing editorship of the Washington Star, a co-founding editorship of The Washington Times, and writing and editing posts at the Associated Press, Baltimore Evening Sun, Annapolis Capital, and Philadelphia Bulletin.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

With Memorial Day fast approaching, NIEER's Megan Carolan and Jen Fitzgerald reflect in this blog post on what pre-K means for the military.
Celia C. Ayala, CEO of Los Angeles Universal Preschool, drops in for a guest post and uses data from The State of Preschool 2010 report to discuss how well English Language Learners and Hispanic children are being served in state-funded pre-K.
In light of the recession, NIEER looks at pre-K trends since 2007 and finds troublesome signs.
For Teacher Appreciation Week, this blog post expands on what we know about pre-K teachers, their effects on the classroom, their education and training, and their compensation.

Calendar

June 14, 2011 - June 16, 2011
New York, NY – The theme for this year's event is Infants, Toddlers, Families: Supporting Their Growth.
July 6, 2011 - July 8, 2011
Denver, CO – The theme of this year's Education Commission of the States summer Forum is "Boosting College Completion for a New Workforce."
July 10, 2011 - July 13, 2011
Orlando, FL – The CAYL Institute will hold its third national conference for elementary school principals in Orlando, Florida.
November 18, 2011 - November 19, 2011
Melbourne, Australia – The theme for this conference is "Honoring the Child, Honoring Equity 11: Inspiring change(s): insights, challenges, hopes and actions."

Early Education News Roundup

May 19, 2011
The News Herald, Willoughby, Ohio
With state and federal governments continuing to make cuts, some of the smallest citizens — preschoolers — are feeling the squeeze. State-run program enrollment has fallen during the past 10 years, but so has funding per child — decreasing by 43 percent since 2002, according to the 2010 report.
May 18, 2011
The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Superintendents tell us full-day kindergarten has helped their schools reach Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks and that their elementary students who had full-day kindergarten do better on standardized tests, such as the PSSA. First-grade teachers tell us the kids who enter first grade from full-day kindergarten classrooms are more prepared for school and better readers.
May 18, 2011
ABC News
PBS did a study showing benefits in kids 3 to 7, but for infants and toddlers, there doesn't seem to be any thorough research into the claimed benefits of these educational apps. While no studies prove apps make toddlers smarter, there's no clear research that shows they hurt children.
May 18, 2011
Wisconsin State Journal
Business leaders understand that fixing problems upfront is more cost-effective, said Charles Kolb, president of the Committee for Economic Development, a business-led think tank in Washington. That's why business leaders across the country are increasingly advocating for high-quality learning systems for children ages five and younger, said Kolb, who will speak at Wednesday's event.
May 17, 2011
Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, SD
Lynette Powell is on a mission; to make pre-school available to all students whose parents want to enroll their children. "A data retreat was done about six years ago," said Powell, the principal at Hot Springs Elementary School, "which showed some kids, who were not in preschool, step into the kindergarten classroom approximately three years behind the other students in educational development."
May 15, 2011
Online Athens
Area schools systems have devised a patchwork of adjustments to deal with statewide cuts in pre-K funding after lawmakers whacked $54 million from the $354 million pre-K budget as part of a sweeping overhaul of lottery-funded education programs.
May 13, 2011
The Spectrum, St. George, UT
Four years ago the Utah Legislature approved a voluntary extended-day kindergarten program, referred to as Optional Extended Day Kindergarten or OEK, for at-risk students. Of Utah's 50,000 kindergartners, approximately 8,000 students currently participate in the program.
May 13, 2011
Chicago Tribune
But it turns out that the basics that build success with money are much simpler than that. "It's about learning to delay gratification," said Beth Kobliner, an adviser to "Sesame Street" and a member of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability. The simple lessons should be taught to children when they are about 3 years old, according to academic research used in developing segments on money for "Sesame Street."
May 11, 2011
WGHP-TV, High Point, NC
North Carolina's "More at 4" programs received a major funding cut in the budget passed by the state house. The state senate has yet to approve its version of the budget.
May 10, 2011
The Oregonian
The Oregon House higher education subcommittee waded deep into education reform today when it took up a bill pushed by Gov. John Kitzhaber to bring all education from preschool through college under the authority of a single board.
May 10, 2011
KVLY-TV, Bismarck, ND
The bill sets aside $625,000 for Gearing up for Kindergarten, a program that readies 4-year-olds for the transition. Nearly half of all children struggle when they first go to school, and these classes are designed to help.
May 10, 2011
WAMU, Washington, DC
Waiting lists and safety schools are usually things we associate with applying to college. But in the District, those words are also part of the mix when you talk about preschool. The city's most popular pre-K programs can have hundreds of children on their waiting lists.
May 9, 2011
Education Week
Armed with a fresh $700 million in an otherwise austere federal budget year, the U.S. Department of Education is trying to figure out how to leverage the money through a new round of state-level competitions focused, in part, on early-childhood education. One leading option being discussed by department officials: conducting a Race to the Top-like competition for states focused entirely on early education that would award either a significant portion of the funds or the entire pot.
May 9, 2011
Asbury Park Press
Research has consistently shown that pre-K programs improve educational outcomes, especially for disadvantaged children. "Reducing preschool funding is shortsighted and governors must safeguard preschool programs," [U.S. Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan said.
May 7, 2011
The Houston Chronicle
Funding cuts still being debated in the Legislature don't affect the standard half-day program that districts must offer if they have enough qualifying students. But about a quarter of the state's 1,237 districts receive pre-kindergarten grants that are expected to disappear in the new Texas budget. Because most of these districts use that funding for full-day classes, even some of the state's largest school systems are now considering cutting their full-day offerings or shifting funding from other programs.

Resources

This publication from the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families at Zero To Three suggests that any workforce development policies should center on promoting collaboration among the multiple types of organizations and professionals that work with infants, toddlers, and their families and should establish models of professional development.
This case study from Advocates for the Children of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Education looks at the experiences of 180 school administrators who enrolled in courses designed to teach them how to reach more young learners. The series of four-day modules was held at various locations around the state. The report provides insights for other states considering such training and highlights how little interaction most schools have with preschool programs in their communities.