Volume 10, Issue 31

December 5, 2011

Hot Topics

Recent coverage has reignited the continued debate on the balance between play and academic instruction in early childhood education. NAEYC's Center for Applied Research argues that both have an important role for early learners and that "maintaining the dichotomy between play and instruction is a distraction" while The New York Times covers the reemergence of simple wooden blocks as a versatile learning toy.
As reported in The Atlantic, small recent study found that preschool children with the poorest language skills improved their language skills when in average-ability classes, compared to peers who were in low-ability classrooms. These findings on peer effects are important evidence for the continued need for universal prekindergarten, rather than providing targeted services only to students with risk factors.
Increasing numbers of parents are opting out of some or all of their children's recommended vaccinations, according to The Associated Press. In eight states, more than one in 20 kindergarten students had not completed the full schedule recommended for attendance. Fox News also reported that three-quarters of pediatricians said parents of patients had requested alternative vaccination schedules that vary from those supported by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Doctors varied in their willingness to follow an alternative schedule based on the particular vaccination. Pediatricians warn that alternative vaccination schedules have not been proven as effective, and that increasing rates of non-vaccination may contribute to the spread of disease, such as increasing rates of whooping cough.
The New York Times reports that during the 2009-2010 school year, 21 million American students received meals subsidized by the federal government, a 17 percent increase over the 2006-2007 school year. More than half of the nation's fourth graders were enrolled in the lunch program as economic troubles continue to take their toll. NIEER recently wrote about the availability of meals in state preschool programs.
In a guest column for The Answer Sheet, Samuel Meisels writes that aligning state early learning standards with the Common Core Standards poses difficulties, as the Common Core were not specifically designed for early learning, set aspirations too high, and do not address all domains essential to early childhood education.
In response to a recent study from the Center for Public Education (shared through this newsletter) examining the most beneficial "dose" of pre-K and kindergarten, New America Foundation addresses concerns with the study, including the use of parent-reported data from the ECLS-K. Noting that the study may better reflect trends in parents’ decisions to enroll children, rather than its intended question on the combination of pre-K and K, the post asserts that "These are exactly the right kind of questions to be asking. The fact that school districts are thinking about cutting either pre-K or full-day kindergarten programs should be heard as an alarm going off..."

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

In the wake of his death, NIEER pays tribute to some of the many accomplishments of Dr. J. Fraser Mustard.
NIEER Director Steve Barnett opines on North Carolina's pre-K situation.

Calendar

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 12, 2012 - April 14, 2012
Dublin, Ireland - This conference will provide participants with the opportunity to engage in an interdisciplinary discussion about the development of Froebel's educational philosophy.
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

December 2, 2011
Merced Sun-Star, Merced, CA
The lawsuit sought to prevent the state from tapping into $1 billion from early childhood programs to help balance its budget.
December 1, 2011
Southeast Missourian, Cape Girardeau, MO
Parents as Teachers, a program that provides parents with personal visits, group meetings, development screenings and a resource and referral network, is not alone in early education funding cuts, said Kathy Thornburg, Missouri's assistant commissioner of education. There have also been cuts to the Missouri Preschool Project, which was created to promote high quality early care and education programs for children one or two years from kindergarten eligibility.
November 30, 2011
The Idaho Statesman
Rather than just talking about pre-kindergarten — and hearing the predictable response from those naysayers at the Statehouse — Caldwell schools are doing it themselves.
November 29, 2011
The Wall Street Journal
Scores of preschool and kindergarten teachers across the city are embedding math concepts into daily classroom activities, in a promising new program that gives students a foundation for more complex math and logical-thinking skills in later grades.
November 29, 2011
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, SD
Low-performing Head Start preschool providers across the country could lose federal funding under new rules, but South Dakota officials say their programs are safe.
November 28, 2011
The Oakland Tribune
A new state law, the Kindergarten Readiness Act, gradually will move the birthday cutoff date for new kindergartners from December to September. The law also requires districts -- beginning next year -- to offer a new grade level for children with fall birthdays who are too young to start kindergarten.
November 28, 2011
The Oregonian
If the Legislature agrees, Oregon soon will require that all children entering kindergarten be assessed for their readiness. If early-childhood programs are not adequately preparing children, they will lose their public funding.
November 27, 2011
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH
The county will funnel an extra $1 million next year to its acclaimed pre-kindergarten program, expanding high-quality early education and offering more scholarships. But the program, which currently serves 1,266 kids at 27 sites, can't make up for Cleveland’s loss.
November 27, 2011
The New York Times
The Parents League workshop reflects a renewed faith in unit blocks — those basic, indestructible wooden toys created in the early 1900s — sweeping through some elite swaths of New York’s education universe. While many progressive private and public schools have long sworn by blocks, more traditional institutions are now refocusing on block centers amid worries that academic pressure and technology are squeezing play out of young children’s lives.
November 26, 2011
Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT
At Head Start, a federally funded preschool program for low-income children, Rosa is learning basics: counting, colors, how to share toys. But over time, the two years the little girl and her classmates will spend playing educational games under the supervision of certified child development experts could help her break the cycle of poverty.
November 23, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Children in St. Louis will improve their test scores when they arrive at public schools ready to learn. They will develop the skills needed for future success if offered the opportunity to learn at a younger age, just like many of their better-off counterparts in the suburbs.
November 23, 2011
HealthDay
Researchers analyzed data on nearly 6,000 white, black and Hispanic children who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study -- a nationally representative sample -- and had their height and weight measured over nine years, in kindergarten, first, third, fifth and eighth grades. The study found nearly 40 percent of kindergarteners had a body mass index (BMI) in the 75th percentile or above, up from 25 percent in the 1970s and 1980s, when the growth charts were developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
November 22, 2011
The Denver Post
The statewide tour led, by Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and United Way's chief executive officer, Christine Benero, went across 25 cities, and more than 2,000 miles in Colorado. Both are working in partnership to find what works and what doesn't, to get kids learning to read by third grade.
November 22, 2011
The Oklahoman
Funding for Oklahoma wouldn't necessarily mean any new prekindergarten programs, but rather it focuses on increasing the quality and accountability of programs.
November 22, 2011
CTV.ca, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The "Early Years Study 3" report offers a look at the state of early childhood education in Canada. Released Tuesday, the report is meant to provide the scientific and economic rationale for provinces to invest more in early childhood education.
November 20, 2011
Minnesota Public Radio
The study measured 5,600 Minnesota students during their first eight weeks of kindergarten in several areas, including physical development, language and mathematical thinking. Among the results, 63 percent of white students were considered ready for kindergarten, compared to 44 percent of Hispanic students, 44 percent of American Indian students, and 57 percent of black students.
November 20, 2011
The Gainesville Sun
Children may be fast learners, when provided the opportunity, but state lawmakers are not. Despite evidence that a dollar spent on early childhood intervention saves $7 later on in criminal justice costs (Florida's prisons being mainly populated by school dropouts), the Legislature has been hacking away at pre-K funding.
November 20, 2011
The Atlantic Monthly
Children going to preschool often learn as much from each other as they do from the teacher. A recently published study found that children who start out with the poorest language skills tended to lose ground when they were placed in the lowest ability classes but improved their language skills when they were placed in average-ability classes.

Resources

A recent study on how children develop distrust found that after watching videos of adults who gave correct and incorrect information, 3- and 4-year-olds were likely to accept advice equally from both adults but 5-year-olds selected advice only from those who gave correct information in the video.
The cover story for the winter 2012 issue of the quarterly journal of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Communities & Banking, discusses early literacy in Massachusetts.