Volume 10, Issue 2

January 21, 2011

Hot Topics

Iowa's Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program, launched in 2007 to provide services for all 4-year-olds will be eliminated — at least the universal aspect of it — if a spending bill passed by the state House of Representatives becomes law. Passed by a margin of 60 to 40, the bill, which also cuts other areas of public spending, is projected to reduce state spending by $500 million over three years. Charlie Bruner, executive director of Iowa's Child and Policy Center, says the House measure did some "de-appropriating," removed the preschool for all statute, and put in a vague provision about funding a voucher approach to state pre-K. Details to come. SVPP's funding is intact for this year and was scheduled to receive $69 million next year. The measure now moves to the Senate where Democrats hold a slim majority and Majority Leader Michael Gronstal vows to fight for the program. Governor Terri Branstad is scheduled to issue his budget next week.
The Star-Telegram reports that a proposal from the Texas Legislative Budget Board would cut the Texas Education Agency budget by $6.7 billion over the next two years. The Associated Press reports the cuts would result in 100,000 children no longer having access to state pre-K. The sweeping budget cuts would also heavily impact public school and higher education funding and close down four community colleges. The proposal does not use money from the state's Rainy Day fund, which is expected to have a balance of $9.4 billion at the end of the next biennium.
Writing in his blog, Upjohn Institute economist Tim Bartik suggests that providing early childhood programs in conjunction with adult job training programs could potentially double or triple the magnitude of economic development benefits as a percent of total program costs after five years by substantially raising Michigan residents' earnings. Bartik also serves as a guest blogger for Preschool Matters … Today! this week, picking up on NIEER co-director Steve Barnett's post on the alarming confluence of economic events besetting the middle class.
Individuals who received the intensive Carolina Abecedarian Project regimen of early education, starting in infancy, had better health and better health behaviors as young adults say Columbia University researchers. Their study expands on the original Abecedarian study to examine the impact of the program on three health measures and eleven measures of behavioral risk factors. Participants in the program not only had significantly better health, but these outcomes were independent of IQ, educational attainment or health insurance status says researcher Peter Muennig. He says it's the first randomized, controlled trial to show that early educational enrichment can bring improved health and healthier behaviors in early adulthood.
Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the book that includes a chapter provocatively titled "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior," has parents and parenting experts debating the more nurturing approach favored in the U.S. compared to the demanding regimen Chua describes. Po Bronson, coauthor of the well-received 2009 book Nurture Shock says while he agrees with some points in Chua's book, he doesn't endorse it. Bronson, who has investigated Chinese parenting styles as well as those of American parents, maintains that both are nurturing but that many of the most popular strategies for raising children in the U.S. are backfiring because they overlook key aspects of child development. His series of columns written in 2009 is available at Newsweek.
Relatively few large-scale education policy changes at the state level can be attributed to the economic downturn, concludes Education Week's recently released Quality Counts report. Many states have modified policy to give districts greater flexibility. For the third year in a row, Maryland was top-ranked, earning an overall grade of B-plus. Massachusetts and New York each followed with a B. Most states fell somewhere in the middle. Thirty-six states earned grades between a C-minus and a C-plus. At the bottom, the District of Columbia, Nebraska, and South Dakota received a D-plus. The nation overall earned a C.

Calendar

February 5, 2011 - February 8, 2011
Columbus, OH – The theme of this year's professional development conference is "Building a Literacy Future."
March 2, 2011 - March 4, 2011
Salt Lake City, UT – Join educators, researchers, policymakers, and administrators for the first annual Early Education and Technology for Children conference.
April 15, 2011 - April 16, 2011
Denver, CO -- This regional conference will offer workshops covering early childhood education topics relevant to teachers, administrators, researchers, health professionals, and policymakers.
May 2, 2011 - May 5, 2011
Greensboro, NC – The National Smart Start Conference is hailed as the nation's largest conference devoted to early education systems and strategies.

Early Education News Roundup

January 21, 2011
Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, IA
The current discussion about whether the state of Iowa should continue to provide free preschool for 4-year-olds is not a referendum on preschool. It's a conversation about taxes, spending and school funding.
January 21, 2011
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Is there wasteful spending in education? Of course there is. It should be identified first, then cut, and not the other way around. Pre-kindergarten, a target of the cuts, is not what we would call waste.
January 18, 2011
The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, IA
Iowans are drawing battle lines over whether taxpayers should cover preschool for all 4-year-olds or just those from low-income families.
January 15, 2011
The Houston Chronicle
The many long-term benefits of quality early care and education are well substantiated, both for the child and for the rest of us. What is that payoff? Nothing short of reduced drop-out, reduced grade retention, reduced special education referrals, reduced juvenile justice involvement, increased college education and increased income as working adults.
January 13, 2011
Education Week
In a recession-altered world where state leaders struggle to maintain their constitutional commitments to public education, early-childhood programs—popular, valued, but largely discretionary—find themselves on treacherous fiscal ground.
January 13, 2011
The Indianapolis Star
Gov. Mitch Daniels and legislative leaders are pushing a multifaceted plan for education reform, but experts say a crucial ingredient is missing: early childhood learning.
January 12, 2011
The Pueblo Chieftain, Pueblo, CO
The fourth order will be carried out by Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia's office. It carries on Gov. Bill Ritter’s vision for a thread through education all the way from preschool through college. It creates the Governor's Education Leadership Council, which will be charged with developing ways of reducing dropout rates, closing achievement gaps of students from challenged socioeconomic groups and racial and ethnic groups, reducing the need for remediation when students reach college and removing barriers to college entry and graduation.
January 12, 2011
The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC
Representatives of child care and child-advocacy groups voiced support for Bright Beginnings. They cited research suggesting the program helps low-income children close the achievement gap with their wealthier peers.
January 12, 2011
The Kansas City Star
While State of the State addresses are typically light on specifics, [Gov. Sam] Brownback did announce several proposals designed to increase jobs, improve schools and redesign state government ...
•Early childhood education centers in the state's poorest school districts, funded by $6 million in tobacco settlement money. The governor said he wants to focus on childhood reading.
January 11, 2011
The Times, Trenton, NJ
The free preschools have actually made a measurable difference, experts say, but their long-term impact has been blunted by several factors, including the need to continually improve existing preschools and to expand the program to many more poor children.
January 11, 2011
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA
[Ecoee] Rooney did not seriously consider any other school except Morris Jeff, where her son already attends pre-K. But her chilly vigil highlights the shortage of prekindergarten spots throughout the city, largely the result of a state funding gap that leaves schools thousands of dollars short per pupil.
January 11, 2011
The Post-Star, Glan Falls, NY
The Board of Regents on Tuesday approved the New York State common core learning standards in English Language Arts and literacy, math, and prekindergarten. The new standards are an addition to the national common core standards the board adopted in July 2010.
January 10, 2011
San Diego Union-Tribune
Forty percent of the state's three- and four-year-olds attend government-funded pre-kindergarten classes. The other 60 percent were either born into families with enough money to pay for private preschool or too much money to qualify for free state programs but not enough to pay for preschool. The latter are the children [Leora] Lazarus has made it a priority to help before they get lost in the public school system.
January 10, 2011
Courier & Press, Evansville, IN
Initial results of two studies tracking two different groups of students who attended preschool in the Henderson County school district show that those students seem to be better prepared for kindergarten.
January 9, 2011
The Reporter, Fond du Lac, WI
Enrollment in 4-year old kindergarten continues to make great strides statewide. The number of children getting an early education has tripled in the past decade, according to the state Department of Public Instruction, with 85 percent of school districts on board.

Resources

This report from the Center for American Progress evaluates the productivity of school districts across the nation win an eye toward productivity — achievement produced relative to a district's educational spending. It finds that low productivity costs the national system up to $175 billion a year. Districts could raise achievement without increased cost by using money more productively. Moreover, without controls on spending, more money does not automatically improve student outcomes. More than one million students are enrolled in inefficient districts, many of which are high-spending. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be in districts with high inefficiency. The least productive districts spend more on administration, fail to evaluate their productivity and have poor education data. Districts that are highly productive focus more on improving student outcomes.
This toolkit from the Center for Law and Social Policy is designed to aid state and local policymakers, program operators and advocates identify federal funding streams that can be used to support integrated service delivery. It delineates organizations providing multiple services and enables users to address both immediate and longer-term needs. The toolkit focuses on the elements of the Center for Working Families model developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation which combines employment and career advancement, income enhancements and work supports, and financial and asset-building services.
Transition is a key component of school readiness. Ensuring children's smooth transition from early education programs to kindergarten requires that attention be paid to the resources and linkages among schools, child care and early education services, and families. In this question and answer session from the Family Involvement Network of Educators Forum, Robert Pianta, professor of Clinical and School Psychology at the University of Virginia, shares his research on children's transitions and gives tips on how to support families during this time.
This research brief from Harvard Family Research Project's Holly Kreider presents evidence that family involvement in young children's education may contribute not only to a smooth transition to elementary school for children, but also for parents, by helping to prepare them for later involvement in their children's learning. This brief draws from the literature on transition, findings from the School Transition Study at Harvard Family Research Project, and recommended practices from early childhood professionals.