Volume 10, Issue 20

July 15, 2011

Hot Topics

The Obama administration released the draft criteria for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funds earlier this month. In recent posts on the Preschool Matters … Today! blog, NIEER state policy experts Jim Squires and Megan Carolan provide insight on the proposed guidelines for Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge and Co-Director Steve Barnett outlines NIEER's recommendations for consideration in the final guidelines.
Joe Klein laments the lack of return on investment in the $7 billion federal Head Start program in his column in the July 7 issue of Time. Klein cites the Head Start Impact Study, which reported that the positive effects of the program were minimal and faded by the end of first grade. Klein states that the United States "can no longer afford to be sloppy about dispensing cash" to programs like Head Start (as well as other perpetual government subsidies such as those for oil companies) "that do not produce a return." When the study was released, NIEER Co-Director Steve Barnett cautioned that the Head Start Impact Study should "be interpreted in light of the full body of research on Head Start, early care and education, and child development" and made recommendations for improvement, including getting rid of programs that fail to produce strong learning gains for children.
Meanwhile, a study led by NIEER scientific advisory board member Arthur J. Reynolds, University of Minnesota, found that children who attended the Chicago Child-Parent Center Education Program had higher educational attainment, income, socioeconomic status, health insurance coverage, and lower rates of justice-system involvement and substance abuse up to 25 years later. The study followed more than 1,400 participants and can be found in the July 15 issue of Science along with a commentary by Edward C. Melhuish, who points to other studies in Asia and Europe and by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that resonate, finding that preschool participation boosts primary school achievement, is associated with increased employment and earning up to age 33, and improves literacy through age 15.
With obesity and the health problems associated with it an ever growing concern, U.K. government health experts this week released exercise recommendations to parents of children from birth to age 5. England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, in a video interview with BBC News encouraged parents to allow their young children to have at least three hours a day of unrestrained time for physical activity, including tummy time to infants. These recommendations appear timely as another report released last week, the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011," found that more than one-third of U.S. children between ages 10-17 are considered obese or overweight.

The U.K. government's recommendations are not unlike those advocated by two U.S. groups, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in a report released last month and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education in their position statement/national guidelines. First Lady Michelle Obama has made fighting obesity her signature issue and launched the Let's Move! initiative to encourage healthier choices in childhood.
July is "National Make a Difference to Children Month," a time to reflect and act on how adults can affect positive change for children. The action campaign, initiated by children's advocate Kim Ratz, asks adults to do four things for children: commit to do one special activity with a child thereby making some kind of positive difference for that specific child; support an organization that focuses on children; communicate with policymakers to make children a priority in policy and budget issues; and get others involved in making a difference in the lives of children.
In a commentary in The Huffington Post this week, pop singer and education advocate Shakira writes about yet another positive outcome from early childhood education – peace. She says, "There is no other investment that has the kind of social multiplier effect that early education has. ... Seeing the students flourish at Max Rayne School -- as with visiting the children in my schools in Colombia who are now on their way to college instead of guerilla armies -- only reaffirms my conviction that education is the very substance of peace." Shakira also notes that investments in pre-K produce positive effects that extend into future generations, an often overlooked benefit of preschool education that NIEER has noted in the past.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

This post takes a look at recent developments that present competing arguments for visions of children's play.
In the final part of a three-part series, NIEER researchers Megan Carolan and Jen Fitzgerald examine what The State of Preschool 2010 has to say about pre-K spending.

Calendar

July 21, 2011 - July 23, 2011
Henderson, NV – The theme for this year's conference is "Quest for Quality: Supporting happy, healthy children."
October 8, 2011 - October 11, 2011
Nashville, TN – The theme for this year's National Black Child Development Institute conference is "Essential for the Journey of Our Children: Keep the Cultural Fire Burning."
November 2, 2011 - November 5, 2011
Orlando, FL – Join early childhood education professionals, administrators, and advocates for the annual National Association for the Education of Young Children conference.
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

July 14, 2011
The Jacksonville Journal-Courier, Jacksonville, IL
The latest round of cuts in state funding means two Jacksonville preschool programs will be closing — leaving about 80 children having to find somewhere else to attend.
July 13, 2011
The Augusta Chronicle, Augusta, GA
Gov. Nathan Deal is considering combining state and federal early learning programs, which he said would improve education for at-risk children. Deal told the Athens Rotary Club on Wednesday that he is "seriously looking at consolidating" the federally funded Head Start program for young children from low-income families and the state's lottery-funded prekindergarten program.
July 12, 2011
Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, KY
Gov. Steve Beshear is making a new federal grant program for early childhood education funds a priority for his administration.
July 12, 2011
The Advocate, Stamford, CT
Several corporate leaders are launching a nonprofit organization to push for education reforms in Connecticut, saying changes are critical to the state's business climate, economy and the quality of its workforce. Some specific recommendations include pushing for more pre-kindergarten programs for low-income children whose parents cannot afford those services, and encouraging better evaluations and training for teachers at all levels.
July 11, 2011
Education Week
For the first time in our national history, two federal agencies (the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services) are coming together to administer a bold, significant, and innovative effort that will meaningfully support the development of an early-learning system for children from birth to age 5. But, unfortunately, because the initiative deals with the fragmented and underresourced early-childhood field, the RTT-ELC will face at least four stiff, important, and consequential challenges.
July 8, 2011
The Signal, Santa Clarita, CA
When the federal government cut funding for Even Start earlier this year, Newhall School District leaders thought they would have to eliminate their early-education program that gives local low-income families a way to build literacy and life skills at Newhall and McGrath elementary schools. But then the state of California stepped in and selected Newhall as one of 10 school districts across the state that will get emergency funding to run a modified Even Start program this school year.
July 7, 2011
NJ Spotlight
New Jersey is applying for up to a $60 million grant under the program, which is being rolled out this summer. "We have a very strong early childhood program in New Jersey and are in a very good position to file a strong application," said acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.
July 6, 2011
The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY
Preschool programs reap dividends well until the kids who attend them are adults. Every dollar that states invest in them yields many dollars in savings over the long run.
July 6, 2011
The Nation
That said, I’m cautiously enthusiastic about this latest, early childhood-focused round of Race to the Top, and here’s why: the model the administration has in mind for pre-school assessment is low-stakes for individual teachers and students and measures not only academic performance but also children’s social, emotional, physical and artistic readiness for kindergarten. The purpose of the system is to improve instruction for kids, not to reward or punish individual educators.
July 5, 2011
San Luis Obispo Tribune
A new approach to kindergarten, meant to better prepare the youngest of those students for academic demands, is being introduced at most school districts in San Luis Obispo County this coming year. The transitional kindergarten program is designed as a bridge between preschool and kindergarten for students who turn 5 years old between Sept. 2 and Dec. 1.
July 3, 2011
The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC
But as a retired Navy Admiral and as a native North Carolinian, I am concerned that cuts to North Carolina's early learning programs - combined with possible across-the-board budget cuts from Washington for quality pre-K programs - could also pose a risk to our long-term national security. Poor educational achievement is a primary reason 75 percent of young Americans are unable to join the military, according to Defense Department reports.

Resources

This report from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) provides 10 recommendations for building a standards-based system aligning preschool with the elementary grades.
The Maternal & Child Health Library at Georgetown University presents this knowledge path, which directs readers to a selection of resources that cover topics such as developmental stages; factors that impact social and emotional development; policies and programs to promote social and emotional well-being in homes and community settings; and strategies for integrating health, developmental, and educational services.
The Partnership for America's Economic Success, a project of the Pew Center on the States, offers business leaders a guide and a brief on advocating for the education of young children as beneficial to companies' success.