Volume 10, Issue 30

November 18, 2011

Hot Topics

The U.S. Department of Education announced the formation of an Office for Early Learning (OEL) to be headed by Jacqueline Jones, the current Senior Advisor on Early Learning to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a veteran of the early learning field. According to an Education Department press release, the new office, located within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) will "...institutionalize, elevate and coordinate federal support for high-quality early learning, while enhancing support for state efforts to build high-performing early education systems." OEL will oversee implementation of the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) as well as provide support for early learning under Title I, IDEA, Promise Neighborhoods, and the Investing in Innovation fund. New America Foundation's Early Ed Watch provides some commentary on this development.
President Obama traveled to a Head Start center in Pennsylvania to announce long-anticipated changes to the largest federal early childhood program. Over the next three years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will use the CLASS observation to assess the effectiveness of all Head Start centers nationwide. Low-performing programs will have to re-compete for federal funding against other agencies, a change meant to ensure high-quality service provision. NIEER's own Steve Barnett told Time that while the new regulations are progress, Head Start must further reform its regulations to focus on what truly makes a program high quality and allow programs the flexibility to innovate with their funds.

While heralded as "new," the regulations are modified from those proposed by the DHHS in September 2010.

In its new study, the Center for Public Education sought to answer a key question during tough budget times: "Are our students better off with a combination of pre-K and half-day kindergarten or are our students better off with full-day kindergarten alone?" Students who attended both pre-K and half-day kindergarten were more like than their full-day-kindergarten peers to achieve both basic and advanced third grade reading levels. In particular, this combined intervention was beneficial for low-income students, English Language Learners, and black and Hispanic children.
In other news, the U.S. Department of Education partnered with the Department of Defense to release a new website community, Learning Registry, designed to improve the sharing of learning resources amongst those working in the field of education. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, Learning Registry’s open-source technology allows for communication between existing online systems. In a released statement, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "Learning Registry addresses a real problem in education, by bridging the silos that prevent educators from sharing valuable information and resources. The Registry also allows content developers, curriculum coordinators, principals, counselors, and everyone else who supports good teaching in the classroom to benefit from the combined knowledge of the field." Learn more about Learning Registry at http://www.learningregistry.org/.
According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, the first decade of the 2000s saw an additional 12.3 million people living in poverty, for a record-breaking high of 46.2 million of poor individuals. Furthermore, there was also an increase in the number of people living in areas of extreme poverty (those neighborhoods where at least 40 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty line). Given that poverty is a significant - if not the largest - risk factor for children's future school success, this news is troubling to the education world. However, enrollment in a high-quality preschool program has been shown to reduce the negative outcomes of children growing up in poverty. But NIEER's The State of Preschool 2010 report provides more troubling data - in tough budget times, state-funded preschool as a whole suffered with reductions in quality standards benchmarks, decreased spending, and only a negligible increase in enrollment.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

With Universal Children's Day approaching this weekend, NIEER researchers discuss how preschool education programs could help promote children's rights.

New on nieer.org

This fact sheet discusses issues regarding teachers' education, including supports for professional development and the effects of the workplace environment on educators' teaching practices.
In this NIEER fact sheet, the authors review sources of financing for public early childhood education programs and provide recommendations for policies that would improve preschool access and quality.

Calendar

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."
November 18, 2011 - November 18, 2011
New York, NY - The 92Y presents its fifth annual conference for early childhood educators, including a complimentary webcast.
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.
March 14, 2012 - March 16, 2012
Salt Lake City, UT - At this conference, participants will learn about and discuss research and best practices involving the use of technology in early childhood education.
March 28, 2012 - March 31, 2012
Washington, DC - This conference will challenge attendees to consider how to provide a positive childhood experience for the youth of the world.
April 30, 2012 - May 3, 2012
Greensboro, NC - This conference provides professional development for early care and education leaders dedicated to improving access to and the quality of early childhood programs.

Early Education News Roundup

November 17, 2011
The Washington Post
In a growing number of families across the country, infants and toddlers are deftly swiping and tapping away even as they wobble toward their first steps. For children 2 or younger, all those screens can have a negative effect on development, according to a recent statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
November 16, 2011
Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR
Child care costs have increased significantly during the last decade in Oregon, while wages have remained flat or increased slightly, and a new report studying child care in Oregon found that the cost of child care increased 7 percent more than family incomes between 2004 and 2010.
November 15, 2011
Anchorage Daily News
When children are given the benefit of early childhood education, risk factors can be identified and addressed early, stronger communities forged, and positive early life experiences created so students enter school eager and ready to learn.
November 13, 2011
The Star-Ledger
When done right, early childhood programs have shown promising success. They give poor kids a leg up, which helps them make better choices later in life.
November 12, 2011
Observer-Dispatch, Utica, NY
Determining exactly how good a pre-K program is, and how ready students such as Dominick will be for kindergarten are two big parts of a new push to standardize curriculum and testing across the state.
November 11, 2011
The Washington Post
Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson is placing a large bet on a curriculum called Tools of the Mind that is adapted from Vygotsky's work. It uses carefully guided play to stimulate what neuroscientists call "executive function": a combination of memory, impulse control, persistence and flexibility that researchers say may be an even more powerful determinant of educational success than IQ.
November 9, 2011
KFSN TV, Fresno, CA
A new law will soon require kids to be 5 years old when entering kindergarten. The cutoff birthday will be September instead of December. The idea is to make sure 4-year-olds are not in kindergarten.
November 9, 2011
TIME Magazine
Just four years after the federally funded preschool program Head Start began in 1965, it was slapped by a report, commissioned by the Johnson Administration, that questioned its effectiveness. Forty years later, not much has changed. While Head Start's aim to prepare low-income students for kindergarten is noble, it's still faces questions about its demonstrable benefits.
November 8, 2011
The New York Times
Declaring that investments in early education are critical to the future competitiveness of the United States, Mr. Obama said that the government would, for the first time, require Head Start programs to meet certain standards to qualify for renewal of federal grants.
November 7, 2011
The Grand Rapids Press
As proposed, the Office of Early Learning will operate as a central resource to ensure that support for high-quality early learning and development programs is coordinated within the Department and across federal agencies, in addition to managing outreach to the early learning community.
November 5, 2011
The Daily Times, Farmington, NM
The federal government on Thursday announced it will continue to fund the Navajo Head Start program at $29.3 million per year. The announcement comes after the Nation for months prepared for cuts to the program, which is chronically under-enrolled.

Resources

In light of the ESEA reauthorization hearings, this Pre-K Coalition report provides recommendations for how federal policy can better support early childhood education programs.
This report from the New America Foundation examines the current practices of teachers in pre-K through third grade classroom and offers recommendations for policymakers and teacher preparation programs.
A small study of children ages 14 months to 46 months found that when parents spoke to children about spatial concepts, like shapes and sizes, during everyday conversation, children had better spatial skills at age 4 ½ years old.
This case study from the Foundation for Child Development outlines how The New School Foundation helped establish a pre-K through third initiative in Washington state, providing a model for the rest of the nation.
New America Foundation's report discusses the education and preparation received by pre-K through third grade teachers.