Volume 10, Issue 22

August 12, 2011

Hot Topics

Like much of the nation, the early education field has lately been focused on finances. Throughout the recent debt ceiling debate, policymakers faced the question of how to cut spending during continued hard times while protecting investments in the future. Early childhood educators and advocates are concerned about the potential impact of this deal, which will be discussed on an upcoming conference call. As discussed in a recent Partnership for America's Economic Success brief and NIEER blog post, early education is an important investment in human capital, today and tomorrow. A study in California found that early care and education contributes significantly to its fragile economy. The long-term gains of pre-K must not be forgotten during the time of belt-tightening, no matter what happens on Wall Street.
The Continuum of Learning Act, a bipartisan bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), was introduced in the House of Representatives. Sponsored by Reps. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Don Young (R-Alaska), the Act uses a variety of strategies to improve alignment between early education programs and existing K-12 systems. Maureen Kelleher writes about the legislation in a recent post at the Early Years blog.
Governor Mark Dayton this week made appointments to the Minnesota Early Learning Council and announced plans to continue the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) in Minnesota, which had not been included in recently approved legislation to provide $4 million in scholarships for needy families to obtain early childhood education. The QRIS began as a pilot program in 2009 and will continue in an effort to improve access to quality early education and care programs in Minnesota as well as enhance the state’s application for Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge funds.
North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue signed an executive order directing the state Department of Health and Human Services to maintain and strengthen the academic standards of the prekindergarten program formerly known as More at Four. The order also calls on the DHHS to remove any barriers to enrollment for all age-eligible kids, which is in line with the recent ruling by Superior Court Judge Howard Manning. The governor plans to call upon the legislature to appropriate the necessary funds for NC pre-K without further cuts to other education programs.
NIEER co-directors Ellen Frede and Steve Barnett discuss the critical role pre-K plays in closing the achievement gap in the May/June issue of NAESP's Principal magazine. Drs. Frede and Barnett note that the availability of preschool is a strong predictor of differences in scores in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a comparison of educational achievement across 65 countries. They also point to research findings that show national achievement test scores rise with the level of public spending on and quality of preschool education. Frede and Barnett maintain that a commitment to an effective, quality preschool program could reduce the achievement gap in the United States by 20 percent.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

In this post, NIEER researcher Megan Carolan discusses the economics of pre-K, based on Tim Bartik's new book Investing in Kids: Early Childhood Programs and Local Economic Development.

Calendar

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."
December 9, 2011 - December 11, 2011
Washington, DC - Zero to Three's annual conference provides professionals with the opportunity to enhance their knowledge about early childhood development through interactive sessions and networking opportunities with colleagues and leaders in the field.

Early Education News Roundup

August 11, 2011
Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN
For the benefit of Minnesota's littlest learners, Gov. Mark Dayton wisely did what the Legislature failed to do: This week, the governor continued and expanded the Parent Aware preschool child-care rating system.
August 9, 2011
The Detroit News
A threat by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to separate the city of Detroit from some $50 million in Head Start grant money follows allegations of misspending, missing equipment and "chronic under enrollment" among other deficiencies. While I don't see the downside, city officials are frantically scrambling to repair the damage and retain management of the program.
August 7, 2011
The Dallas Morning News
Full-day pre-kindergarten was a victim of budget cuts, leaving the programs with no state funding. Districts will have to decide whether to use local dollars to continue the programs.
August 5, 2011
Quad-City Times, Davenport, IA
Every week, parents will get to talk about the wonders of childhood. They will hear what children need most from their parents. And they even will make toys - sock puppets, included - as a way to promote bonding between parent and child. This is all thanks to the Texas-based Avance organization, which is expanding its parent-child education program into the Quad-Cities.
August 5, 2011
The Oklahoman
Excellence requires investment. Investing in programs for young children and their families is the first step in preparing successful students, a skilled workforce and ultimately a stronger Oklahoma economy.
August 3, 2011
News & Record, Greensboro, NC
Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. ruled last month that there are about twice as many eligible at-risk 4-year-olds in North Carolina than were served last year, and none can be turned away. The judge overseeing a long-running education lawsuit ordered that any barrier to enrolling at-risk 4-year-olds "may not be enforced." The Department of Health and Human Services is responding to the ruling by telling local agencies administering the newly revamped North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program to accept all comers, though no one knows the potential cost.
August 2, 2011
The Charlotte Observer
To get your child ready to enter preschool or kindergarten this fall, end the summer with plenty of talking, playing and reading. Dana Fritz, a speech-language pathologist at the University of Missouri, suggests that parents use day-to-day opportunities while they're out and about to help their children expand their language and reading skills.
August 1, 2011
Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, MT
A recent study produced by the Michigan Department of Education agrees, reporting that parental participation in education is one of the biggest predictors of all-around success for a child's total well-being, trumping even social standing and high family income brackets.
July 31, 2011
Orlando Sentinel
The first Race to the Top competition, embraced by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, resulted in a $700 million grant for the state last year. But Florida could remain on the sidelines in the newest competition, which has the potential of netting the state an additional $100 million.

Resources

The Early Learning Challenge Collaborative (ELCC), an effort of the BUILD initiative and the First Five Years Fund, released planning tools for states planning on applying for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge competition. While guidelines have not yet been finalized for this federal grant competition, the ELCC's checklist and tools can help state working groups assess strengthens and initiate inter-agency conversations.
This updated report from the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) scores all 50 states plus D.C. and the Department of Defense on 10 program requirements and five oversight benchmarks for child care centers, finding that while progress has been made since the last update in 2009, half of the states still earned a failing grade.
This study by Pre-K Now found that surveyed military families do not have access to high-quality early education and care for their children age 5 and younger, despite the pressing need for such opportunities.
This BUILD Initiative brief looks at ways to align preschool and elementary school reforms in order to provide a strong start for children from birth through age eight.
In this issue brief from the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the Harvard Family Research project, the authors use five case studies to discuss teacher education and professional development programs that encourage meaningful and effective family engagement in children's schooling.
This August 2011 report from the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Berkeley explores the impact of California's multi-billion dollar early care and education (ECE) sector on the state's economy. ECE is found to contribute to economic growth through immediate job creation, improved workforce engaged for parents, and long-term human capital development.